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Society and Politics

Jennifer Merlyn Scherler. My Internet Is Not Your Internet But My Reality

syg.ma team

“My Internet Is Not Your Internet but My Reality” is a hybrid of lecture, poetry reading, musical and artistic performance that explores material and social relations behind the utopia of the borderless and free internet.

Jennifer analyses the ways social media monopolies exclude sex workers through the implementation of national laws, content policies, and digital gentrification, while also recreating TikToK tropes and dreamy aesthetic. We publish the video script (you can find the PDF version here).

My internet is unique to me

it constitutes my reality

it constitutes the knowledge I can access

and therefore

it constitutes what I know

what I am capable of knowing

it constitutes

what misinformation

I am capable of believing.

The internet is not simply an institution but an infrastructure.

„[…] infrastructure and infrastructural imaginaries have come to be the precondition of our lives today. Or, as Ned Rossiter describes, „for many, the model has become the world.“ For Rossiter, logistics (extended to include social networks, big data and the affect of information) reflect, but also control, the world and are as important as any physical distribution. […] „if infrastructure creates worlds, then software coordinates them. […] This invisibility […] „determines spaces, disciplines bodies, allocates resources, and priviledges notions of progress and development without any critical representation.“

— Clark, Tom, Haslam, Susannah: What if the ground is not art?. In: MARCH 1 (October 2020), p. 63

No room, no space is innocent everything will eventually

sort itself

into

societal structures.

„The placement of Facebook’s European headquarters in Ireland […] acts as a barrier to democratic action against the company by users in other parts of that continent. Facebook has insisted that it is only subject to Irish jurisdiction rather than those of the European Union or its member states, which enables the company to avoid more stringent data protection in other jurisdictions—notably Germany—as part of the company’s strategy to “resist local efforts to assert jurisdiction”[…].“

— Cinnamon, Jonathan: Social Injustice in Surveillance Capitalism. In: Sureveillance & Society Vol 15 No 5 (2017), p. 618

Your internet is not my Internet

because I am not suspended from bank accounts just because of the work that I do.

Your Internet is not my Internet

because while I am queer

I am also white and live in Western Europe.

Access to the Internet feels like a human right to me

but it isn’t.

(it should be. it needs to be)

„Dream of connection Tell me how you feel Tell me how you feel Are you even real? Are you even real?“

— James Blake „Are you even real?“

I am not a robot

The term virtual reality — virtual coming from the latin virtualis which means available as possibility, that which could be — virtual reality means as much as a possible reality.

But while we still draw a distinction between irl and online — the online is real life itself.

It is a place to organize, unionize, exploit, bully.

A place to make capital, stay in connection, and against all 1990ies utopia it is not a democratic wonderland, where our bodies and identities don’t matter.

It does not only depend on where you are in the world — which might determine your bandwidth, the financial cost of Internet usage or the particular laws on platform accessibility tied to your place. It also matters who you are, whom you love, what you work as, what skin you wear, what your body looks like.

Social media is transphobic fatphobic queerphobic

it is racist

sexist

and the internet is colonialised.

„With the current global uprisings against the police murder of Black people across the [U.S.] […], we see very concretely how social media can follow us offline— sometimes with deadly consequences. Just recently, there have been reports of protesters getting arrested for organizing or even demonstrating in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Police and government agents were able to identify these protesters by tracking where they bought their clothing (one protester in Philadelphia was tracked through Etsy, for example) and running protesters social media livestreams and photos through facial recognition algorithms. These examples show us how censorship and attacks on free speech are facilitated by structural racism (i.e. racist algorithms).“

— Hacking//Hustling: Posting Into The Void. A community report by Hacking// Hustling. Blunt, Danielle, Coombes, Emily, Mullin, Shanelle, Wolf, Ariel. 2020, p. 23

The algorithm has become, if not evil, troublesome.

„While section 230 has been largely credited for creating free speech protections online, what it actually did was protect content moderation. After § 230, websites could moderate user-generated content without being treated as publishers under the law, meaning they would not be punished if they missed defamatory or obscene user-generated content while moderating. This legal protection encouraged content moderation, but not suppression of user speech— enabling innovation and open discourse in online spaces.“

— Hacking//Hustling: Posting Into The Void. A community report by Hacking// Hustling. Blunt, Danielle, Coombes, Emily, Mullin, Shanelle, Wolf, Ariel. 2020, p.10

Section 230, dating back to 1996, is a US law that is considered a crucial part of internet legislation. It has been amended by SESTA/FOSTA, in 2018 which drastically restricted digital spaces for sex workers.

text:

„I don’t think some of you realize, if we lose section 230 we lose the internet as we know it, GLOBALLY. fosta/sesta has ruined SW [sex workers] livelihoods and safety worldwide because of the american monopoly on social media platforms.“ — @sequinmicrobikini, Instagram, 2020

Because, America has, you know, kind of the monopole of social media, with fucking Silicon Valley.

text:

„people need to start speaking up more about section 230. in the slides i’ve posted some info about what it is and how it works.

FOSTA/SESTA was an amendment to section 230 that dictated that sites would be held accountable for any incident of s3x tr4ffick1ng [sex trafficking] that occurred on the site. rather than make themselves vulnerable to fines, shutdowns, or criminal consequences, most sites decided to enact sweeping bans to eradicate SW [sex work] and adult content on their platform. which brings us to today.

if we lose section 230, we could see FOSTA/SESTA type effects, tenfold, in all areas, not only SW [sex work]. we would likely see a total ban on p0rn [porn] and adult content, verified or not. the internet would become massively censored, tightly controlled, and we would likely lose encryption as well. there would be no anonymity, no protection, no safety, no safe spaces. this affects everyone.“

— @sequinmicrobikini, Instagram, 2020

„Think you gotta keep me iced, you don“t Think I”m gonna spend your cash, I won’t Even if you were broke

My love don’t cost a thing

Think I wanna drive your Benz, I don’t If I wanna floss, I got my own

Even if you were broke

My love don’t cost a thing“

— Jennifer Lopez „Love don’t cost a thing“

Sex work doesn’t deal with love

it doesn’t sell love

sex work deals with phantasy

lesbian sex workers provide heterosexual satisfaction

performativity.

Both in dreams and in coitus we embrace phantoms.

When in precarity,

when marginalized,

we need to become experts of our hostile waters. Tech experts

just to survive.

Which is hard

as many analyses

are mere guessworks

as social media platforms

can keep their strategies

and mechanisms

opaque.

shadowbanning is more

effective

than complete banning. As they can keep you — to continue

generating ad revenue sell your data

to data brokers

and social media

intelligence companies.

The denial of shadowbanning can be described as structural platform gaslighting

as it denies the very

felt

erasure and invisibility.

„Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment.

Before it was a verb, gaslight was a noun. A lamp. Then there was a play called Angel Street in 1938, and then a film, Gaslight, in 1940, and then a second film in 1944, directed by George Cukor and featuring an iconic, disheveled,

unraveling performance from Ingrid Bergman. A woman’s sanity is undercut by her conniving husband, who misplaces objects — a brooch, a painting, a letter — in an attempt to make her believe she is mad so that he ultimately can send her to an asylum.“

— Machado, Carmen Maria: In The Dreamhouse. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press 2019, p. 93

Shadowbanning means you can post but your content remains invisible. It might mean that you no longer show up in the search results your content is not shown in the algorithmically curated feed of others.

The user remains

on the metadata collection and surveillance matrix.

„By now you should know I hate waitin'

I got no patience

Right now man are tryna get out the matrix Far from the agents

Tryna stay far from the devil in the red dress Far from the pagans

Only time man are gonna see me again

Is if I share location“

— Skepta „Konnichiwa“

But I mean that’s something I really love about conspiracy theories. Like them being like: „they will vaccinate us and implant a microchip just so the can track us.“ I’m like — honey, do you know what your phone does?! Hahaha, like there is so

muche asier ways out there to track people and they are already doing it! Do you really think they need to invite — invite omg — invent (!) a fucking pandemic? Like ugh!

My Internet is not your Internet but my reality.

Your Internet it not my Internet but your reality.

My Internet is not your Internet but my reality.

My Internet is not your Internet but my reality.

Your Internet is not my Internet but my reality.

Your Internet is not my Internet but your reality.

My Internet is not your Internet but my reality.

Capitalism wins capitalism swallows the internet

is not free from societal structures

not free

from capitalist interest. It is a mirror

it amplifies

it magnifies

what is already there.

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