Your click is your vote.

When you visit a website, the owner of that website is paid by advertisers in return for the placement of an advert on the page you are viewing (targeted online advertising). The outlet’s revenue in advertising is directly proportional to the amount of page clicks it gets; by not visiting a site, that site loses your revenue. If we are to collectively boycott journalists, articles, or websites, through loss of engagement that organisation will lose money.

To be clear, Invisible Voice is about protest and boycott - not censorship - much like Liverpool’s boycott of The Sun newspaper, but online.

Invisible Voice was a plugin for Chrome and Firefox; every Sunday (31st December 2017 to 3rd March 2018), the plugin blocked one website from participants’ browsers for a week. Each week, a different person or institution decided and justified their choice.

Invisible Voice by Mark Farid, was commissioned by Goldsmiths, University of London.

31 12 2017 - 03 03 2018

Simran Hans: Writer and Film critic at The Guardian.

Sharar Avin: Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge.

Gary Dejean: PhD in Mass Media Communication.

Sarah Divall: Creative Coordinater and Vlogger at Hubbub.

Simon Stevens: Independent and Honest Dysability and Inclusion Consultant.

Barbara Speed: Journalist, specialising in technology and housing.

Dr. Camille Baker: Reader at the School of Communication Design, and TEDx speaker.

Dr. Natasha Chuk: Scholar and Author with a PhD in Media and Communication Philosophy.

Catherine Chapman: Journalist, seen in NBC News, Vice, The New York Times and the Daily Mail.
Blocked by
Catherine Chapman, Journalist seen in
NBC News, Vice, The New York Times and the Daily Mail

Years of political correctness drove me into the newsroom of the Daily Mail and thus the hands of those that I had once assumed were my enemy.

‘How can you live with yourself,’ someone, a so-called friend, had asked, propelling me into my usual rant of the current state of the media environment, one that’s heavily constrained by the demands of rolling news, digital revenue and political polarization, the latter of which, by no means new nor attributed to the conservative press alone.

We should first be honest – there is no perfect media outlet.

A report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism1 taken in November 2017 showed that distrust in the media was due to concern of bias, spin and hidden agendas for two thirds of the 18,000 people surveyed.

The study was taken of media consumers across nine different countries where the most poignant response from the UK, a country heavily tainted by a lack of confidence in journalists predominately due to the 2011 phone-hacking scandal2, was perhaps: ‘there are enough different voices that you can piece together what actually happened’.

This is true – the only way to form an opinion in this minefield of corporate or state sponsored propaganda is to read everything, trusting that, individually, journalists will do their jobs and adhere to the various codes of ethics that, while riddled with their own regulation problems, at least strive for neutrality in their implementation3.

The neutrality of regulators like IPSO, and the rise of alternative news sites, also help demonstrate that there are many sides to any given story – the Daily Mail reporting on asylum seekers accused of rape, for instance, is no less valid than the Guardian illustrating how sexual assault victims are being arrested under immigration charges.

The difference is audience.

In August 2017 another report by the Reuters Institute4 found that levels of audience polarization were shockingly profound in both the US and UK, meaning that individuals will consume news in line with their own political leaning or personal agenda with digital technologies making it easier to so do in something that we’ve come to know as a filter bubble.

The Guardian online, the report states, has 48 per cent left-wing readers and 12 per cent right-wing leaders, while The Daily Mail online has 30 per cent right-wing and 13 per cent left-wing with similar disparities allocated to American outlets like the New York Times and Fox News.

News outlets should, of course, practice opinion diversity and give voice to the alienated in order to defragment their self-confirming audiences - but the assumption that news consumers play an innocent role in this chicken and egg relationship is a gross, if not insulting, oversight.

In a time where internet censorship and no-platform policies, online and off, appear dangerously rife, complaining about media bias suddenly feels just a lot like disagreeing with a certain point of view that simply doesn’t suit your own.

Blaming the media, after all, or any form of popular culture really, is an easy scapegoat for the numerous ills present within our society. Pointing the finger at something, or banning extremist content, for example, does not make these problems magically disappear. You accomplish nothing – your daughter still has an eating disorder and there are still neo-Nazis in the British army.

Now, I implore you: be terrified.

For in this environment has entered an organisation deploying tactics akin to any state censorship law – that is the use of broad, inarguable terms defined only by them.

But while the British government, let’s say, will prosecute all those opposed to ‘fundamental British values,’ this organisation measures what is right and what is wrong through an ill-defined notion of ‘hate’.

Arguing against hate, as a general concept, is impossible, and therein lies the dubious way this group gets support for their agenda, which is neither neutral or well-researched.

We must ‘start spreading love!’ they claim, while actively segregating millions of people to whom they, seemingly, refuse any dialogue with. They instead, choose to attack the funding sources of the conservative media, reporting to have done so violently, numerous times.

This does not make those millions of opinions go away but it’s ‘democracy at its best,5’ according to one of their supporters, who, like them, has probably never actually read the Daily Mail.

Have you?

Stop Funding Hate came onto the scene in August 2016 fresh off the Brexit vote, which we all know, the Daily Mail caused – or was it the Russians?

They want to save us all from media hate, and from their point of view, that equates to sensationalist headlines that some reports6 have linked to hate crimes – a multifaceted and disgusting type of prejudice where inaccurate portrayals of groups of people in the media are not just the fault of press on the right side of the political spectrum.

A bi-partisan media analysis into such a theory over time would be welcomed, but Stop Funding Hate appears to be doing nothing of the sort, making their efforts to change media rather pointless, particularly when all tabloid headlines seem to bring offensive to them – you need a methodology.

The group’s failure to recognise that sensationalist headlines can equally engage audiences with important but thought to be boring topics – or that balanced content matters more than sided presentation - is worrying, but their focus on advertisers even more so.

Stop Funding Hate attacks Daily Mail advertisers under the premise that sensationalist headlines entice more people to click on them and that this generates advertising revenue – it doesn’t.

Robert Picard, a media economics scholar and research fellow at the Reuters Institute, stated in a 2017 interview7 with the University of Navarra Faculty of Communication that clickbait ‘is not bringing in money, and it’s not bringing in audience’ and his view is generally shared across the industry.

A look into 2018 media trend predictions, another Reuters Institute study8, says that 62 per cent of digital media leaders believe that advertising will become less important over time and the move toward reader-supported business models will represent the future media environment alongside a stronger engagement with their readers – something that, evidently, Stop Funding Hate wants none of.

Last year, most notably, the group published a survey9, which found that 38 per cent of 1,682 participants across Britain believed that the Daily Mail has a negative impact on society, yet certain ignorable aspects appear missing – my point regarding reader bias above, and the fact that everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, loves to hate the Daily Mail. It is every UK resident’s right to do so.

Yet hate, funny enough, is not the Daily Mail’s wheelhouse – perhaps because it cannot be defined or that one must look to the publication’s majority of female readers10 to see that the publication pumps out, and profits on, sex.

And that, the unfortunate truth of all this is, will always find a buyer.

The Daily Mail will go back to being my enemy once Stop Funding Hate is gone - an inevitable fate when we consider that their tactics are all wrong and that their American equivalent Sleeping Giants11 has failed to remove the far-right site Breitbart from the online ether.

So speaking on behalf of all journalists who are in this business because we actually want to see change happen, or from those of us who never imagined to see free speech under such dire threat that we’d be forced to defend a publication like the Daily Mail, I ask you: do fucking better.











Blocked by
Dr. Natasha Chuk, Scholar and Author
PhD in Media and Communication Philosophy

Why block Google isn’t just a website or a search mechanism. It’s not just a conglomerate technology company or a cloud computing service. It’s a web interface that has the ability to powerfully direct traffic and information quests, and thus ideologies and knowledge. It’s a standard, default internet search, communication, and document system for users, and therefore an unquestioned way of life.

It’s also become a verb – a testament to its ubiquity and overall acceptance – the conversational default to indicate searching and seeking answers online, however accurate, relevant, or biased they may be, as in ‘I don’t know the answer. I will google it.’ At a basic level, unexamined trust in Google’s responses to our queries is a habitually formed given. Google’s gargantuan, unbreakable hold on users, especially in western societies where it originated, continues to act as a perfect deception as it thwarts the democratic incentive it purports to have in its lack of transparency and its literally calculated system of information retrieval, whose highly classified algorithm favors speed and advertising revenue over veracity and equality.

Reports have surfaced in the last couple of years that Google produces wildly inaccurate and ultimately damaging results based, for the most part, on popularity. This is especially true with regards to emotionally charged, panicked searches about partisan issues or current events. The Verge’s Adi Robertson suggests it’s time we ‘stop trusting Google searches already’, and others have reported on the contributions that tech giants like Google (along with Facebook) have made toward the dissemination of inflammatory and divisive messages leading to the U.S. presidential election of 2016, and of the monetization of hate messages that target specific online groups.

Still others have written and warned about the highly problematic mishaps of YouTube (one of Google’s subsidiaries), including hosting abusive and inappropriate content and the more sinister effect of unregulated children’s programming on the site. The Guardian, James Bridle, Business Insider, and The Verge are a handful to have published reports on these issues. Google knows its algorithm is flawed, even broken, but reparations are difficult to calculate on this scale, especially when the company’s impulse is to fix its algorithmic disaster with more artificial intelligence, creating an even wider gap of misunderstanding between computer scientists and their convoluted creations. This kind of risk speaks to the company’s overall weakness when it comes to ethical, human-centered design, as former Google employee Tristan Harris has emphatically expressed since leaving the company in 2016.

This kind of carelessness can also be attributed to Google’s internal problems as a company more generally, particularly its unwillingness to consciously diversify its staff, opting instead to perpetuate the so-called bro culture of Silicon Valley, a palpable gender and racial bias in the industry brought to light recently by a class action lawsuit filed against the company by three female former employees, and as the non-profit pro diversity organization aimed at the tech industry, Project Include, seeks to spotlight.

Google’s problems are monumental in number and magnitude, which are precisely what make it so dangerous. Regardless of the promise of improvements, the company and its reach are simply too big and too deeply entrenched in our daily lives for us to easily dispose of them. Google is aware that its power is derived from the closed loop of network effects on which it thrives: the more people use it, the bigger its capacity; the bigger its capacity, the more people rely on it.

Founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is now a major part of a conglomerate called Alphabet, which offers a range of services and products that are integral to the lives of users. This includes YouTube and Search (mentioned above), Gmail, Drive, Translate, Photos, Calendar, Maps, News, and many others. Google’s website has a dedicated page for educational products, encouraging interested parties to adopt their ‘free’ G Suite cloud ‘solution’, which has been tremendously effective.

Over the last decade, universities around the world decided to cut costs by switching from in-house e-mail services to Gmail. Following this success, other schools have followed. In the U.S., it is estimated that nearly half of primary- and secondary-school children use Google services by requirement in schools and at home. Additionally, Chromebooks, affordable laptops that run on a Linux-based Chrome operating system, have helped drive more traffic and support to Google’s Chrome browser, products, and services. These are some ways of demonstrating that despite any confusing algorithmic problems or questionable ethical practices, the company and its offerings are staples in users’ lives, and this begins at a young age.

With this in mind, it isn’t a question of whether or not there are viable alternatives to Google’s services; it’s whether or not we are willing to break free of its clutches of convenience, ease, and wide accessibility. It’s a matter of unpacking what that tradeoff entails and deciding it’s worth it, however difficult. Blocking access to, if only temporarily and somewhat selectively, forces affected users to reroute their searches, rethink their inquiries, and demonstrate to the tech giant that there are valuable alternatives to their services.

In that sense blocking for one week is a small but meaningful act of defiance and hope against a self-generating system that doesn’t favor alternatives but also doesn’t have the power to keep them away. The extent of the brief act of blocking access to a single but powerful portion of Alphabet’s domain won’t greatly impact the company’s bottom line, but it will serve as a symbolic gesture of resistance and temporarily disrupt the flow of information and internal logic of Google’s flawed algorithm. Moreover, for users, the immediate but temporary satisfaction of obtaining information to Google searches will be suspended, which will be inconvenient, annoying, and time-consuming, but will in turn promote new habits and behaviors, perhaps offline, that will be worth the tradeoff.

With that in mind, I suggest going elsewhere to find answers. Asking questions. Reading printed materials. Refusing to search as a default response to anything that can’t be instantly retrieved by memory. Not giving up. Jogging your memory. Re-engaging in conversation. And when the week passes and Google’s services are reinstated, don’t be seduced by the speed of retrieval. Question which answers appear first and why. Ignore autofill attempts to answer for you. Trust your own use of language and connection. And try again to go elsewhere just to prove that you can. One week without is enough to make our voices, though small and invisible, count.
Blocked by
Dr. Camille Baker, Reader at the
School of Communication Design, and TEDx speaker

This is a story rather than a essay, as after a long year of writing to complete my book, as well as several articles and book chapters, not to mention reports for a current EU research project, I’m a bit writing’d out! Yet when asked what website I would block, it seemed natural to block WikiLeaks, especially after reading this article “Free Press Group Ready to Cut Off WikiLeaks” by KEVIN POULSE, SPENCER ACKERMAN in the Daily Beast.

I remembered the moment last year when I unfollowed WikiLeaks on Twitter and sent a private message to the site stating my reasons. I had watched as Julian Assange and WikiLeaks had turned into a promotional tool for Donald Trump with horror and could no longer support anything they stood for. This moment was a great disappointment because I had become one of the many WikiLeaks supporters of the site and fans of Julian Assange over the last few years, due to his active role in exposing the lies and secrets of the US and other governments activities. And even when he was first holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, in order to escape extradition to Sweden for rape charges, I believed the rhetoric that that was just a disguised method to enable the US to bring him there for trial for espionage or whatever claims they had against him.

In 2013 I was in Australia for several media art and technology conferences and festivals doing workshops with a friend and we discovered JA speaking via Skype for one of them as the hero of democracy by enabling Private Manning and Edward Snowdon to be whistleblowers to the unsavoury war activities of the US government in particular, but also others around the world. I was so enthralled to hear him speak and empowered by the global people power enabled by WikiLeaks in tandem with all the large protests and demonstrations of people showing their politicians who really had the power - or so it seemed. I’ve been an activist and politically vocal all my life, having been to many demonstrations and doing much in my life to try make change from the grassroots, but it finally felt really possible in this period because of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

In recent years I saw all the documentaries and read all the articles about these figures as they seemed quite part of my own intellectual world of critical understanding of technology and society, that I teach my students and impacting the media art work I do and write about. But things started to feel uncomfortable when the stories of his paranoid and persecution rants and tweets surfaced, and news of his negative personal interactions in general, but especially with his staff members and women, especially the Swedish women. Then my feminist values started to be challenged. How could this self-aggrandising, paranoid, sexist, possible rapist be a hero? It’s the same feeling I have when I consider the great artists, poets, etc. who are also known misogynists, rapists, murders or exploiters of women or otherwise fascists or racists etc. (always conflicted about Edgar Allen Poe, Leni Riefenstahl and others). How can we celebrate artists / figures who do both amazing things but are also horrible people?

Last year, when I saw how WikiLeaks was focussing how horrible Hilary Clinton1 was and exposing her emails in order to smear her in the lead up to the 2016 US election I started to realise that I could not longer support or even read these outbursts of pure vitriol.

I’m not American (expat Canadian in the UK) and this election didn’t affect me directly, but as a woman I wanted to see a women president and Hilary seemed most capable and has done some amazing work for women in the US over the years, no she’s not perfect and very neoliberal, but she didn’t deserve the horrible misogynist abuse she got - which Assange and WikiLeaks enabled participated in - and the world wouldn’t be suffering the likely catastrophic chaos Donald Trump is unleashing on the world at the moment. So when I read the Daily Beast story, “Free Press Group Ready to Cut Off WikiLeaks”2 it felt like a validation that my decision was correct and that I was not the only who could no longer support WikiLeaks. With a huge increase in followers from the extreme right wing racist, Breitbart follower, I would rather block them and hope they die in obscurity and JA is finally locked up.

The western world is moving in two extreme political directions - we see this in the UK with Brexit, in Europe with extreme left and right wing polarisation forming in most countries, WikiLeaks is now part of that exacerbating that polarisation, and no longer should be taken seriously or at all.

More on Assange are in these articles:
Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country by Raffi Khatchadourian
He was an ardent WikiLeaks supporter. Then he got to know Julian Assange by Alexander Bisley


Blocked by
Barbara Speed, Journalist specialising in
Technology and Housing

I recently met a journalist who told me he was deeply worried about Facebook - that it was becoming a threat to society, even democracy.

As a former tech journalist, who grew up with these social networks in a way older colleagues didn’t, I am always suspicious of these kinds of sweeping statements about social media. Society has been suspicious of new technology since the dawn of time: the printing press was a threat to the monarchy; the rise of the novel was terrifying for its capacity to educate women; television was going to rot young mids. Somehow, society staggers on.

And yet since I spoke to him, little news stories have begun to convince me that he’s right - in the limited sense that Facebook is a huge threat to our particular industry. It’s not too much of a stretch to argue that even if your salary isn’t tied up in it, a threat to a free, thriving  press  is a threat to society in some sense.

In October, the social network launched the “Explore” feed, separate to the newsfeed of your friends’ updates and those of publications and brands you follow1. But in a small number of countries, it trialled a different distinction: where all you would see on your main newsfeed were updates from your friends, and sponsored posts. That meant that in order to see something from a newspaper website or even the BBC, you had to click through to a different feed.

The sixty biggest news websites in Slovakia, one of the countries where the trial took place, saw four times fewer interactions with their posts2. It seemed that while the biggest sites were less affected - they have other access to traffic, and may be able to pay for sponsored posts anyway - smaller sites were hardest hit. It’s worth pointing out that currently, Facebook is the major source of traffic for a large proportion of news organisations (most don’t make their traffic details public, so it’s hard to quantify exactly). Any change to Facebook’s algorithm, whether intended to punish media groups or not, can both affect the media’s ability to make money and keep publishing, and can also encourage them to produce certain types of content so Facebook favours their links.

It’s niche, and complicated, and it was only a trial. But for me, the Explore Feed trial  laid bare Facebook’s intention to break a promise I realised it had never actually made: that it would show the content you posted to the people who decided to follow your publication, without you paying for it. As a colleague pointed out, it’s like we signed up to Amazon Prime, and now the free trial is running out. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so naive.

In a way, I respect Facebook’s cleverness. It made itself invaluable to other businesses’ model, and now it’s going to charge for us to keep our status quo.

But in Western societies we have rules around competition, and media neutrality, and media platforms. Broadcast media is required by law to show “due impartiality”3. Most print media (while it doesn’t have to be impartial) is signed up to some form of press regulator. Media ownership is subject to laws around competition, based on the idea that the public should be exposed to a good mixture of news and opinion. One person isn’t allowed to own a lion’s share of the broadcast and print media. At the moment, Facebook is not directly subject to any of this, despite the fact that in 2016, social media became the biggest news source for young people4

But there’s another player in all this, as the Inivisible Voice project is trying to make clear: there’s all of us.

Just because Facebook is, it seems, entitled to start downgrading any news stories that haven’t paid to be there, that doesn’t mean we need to keep using it. So I want to block Facebook, just for a week. So you remember that news comes from other sources too, and you may want to give your money to those sites that create the news - not one lens which has decided it’s going to start curating it for you based on cash, and cash alone.




Blocked by
Simon Stevens,
Independent and Honest Dysability and Inclusion Consultant

As someone who vaguely defines themselves as a ‘disabled tory’, I have experienced years of abuse on social media by other ‘disabled activists’ who align themselves as socialists or liberal. I believe the Guardian has played a key role of building the confidence of liberal social media trolls with a level of smugness and refusal to engage in honest debate.

The Guardian is frequently referenced on a daily basis on social media as a form of liberal smugness and intellectual blindness that has allowed a political divide to form and allows the likes of Trump to wrongly be credited for the free speech of those who feel behind in the demands of liberal identity politics. In the same way that the Daily Mail has become a symbol of hate for people who define themselves as liberals or socialists, the Guardian has become a symbol of liberalism and political correctness for a supposed liberal majority.

As a disability consultant, I have seen endless articles in the Guardian that I believe simply show disabled people as just a welfare issue, reducing our personhood to how much in the way of benefits we receive. I believe that the so-called ‘benefit scrounger’ rhetoric (theoretically appearing all over the tabloid press) is a hysterical invention by the Guardian to support the demonising of the activity of supporting people with impairments into work as well as fully supporting them to be included in society as meaningful citizens, as well as endorsing warehousing them on benefits in the name of fairness and compassion.

The government has been accused on many occasions of directly referring to disabled people as benefit scroungers because of one or two very old articles in the Daily Mail at most. The government’s message has been a clear one of wanting to support disabled people who can work to work, and providing support to those who can not. The rhetoric however questions the motives of support people into work, demonising the notion. The rhetoric can be seen by the repetitive articles from Guardian journalists like Dr Frances Ryan, who portray disabled people as victims.

This is a typical quote from Frances; “Except, that’s what the Tories would like you to think. The language of disabled people “languishing” on sickness benefits may have quietened and enthusiasm for austerity – now an electoral risk – be spoken of less zealously, but the policies have gone nowhere. For proof, take a look at the official figures released this month showing the scale of benefit sanctions against disabled and chronically ill people since the Conservatives first introduced stricter measures. More than 70,000 people on the out-of-work sickness benefit (employment and support allowance) ESA had their benefits stopped between December 2012 and December 2016. More than 5,000 had them stopped for at least six months. That’s wheelchair users and people with learning difficulties left with bare cupboards and cold homes.”

This statement reinforces disabled people as ‘other’ who can not be afforded the same responsibility as others, and so the same level of citizenship. It is also trying to use wild assumptions to turn statistics into personal stories based on the belief that disabled people are always the victims. The sanctions regime affects people with chronic illnesses like depression and obesity, from people refusing to cooperate with the system, yet she implied that they who suffer are impairment groups seem more vulnerable, who are unlikely to be affected by the welfare reforms. Therefore she is creating stress and despair that is unnecessary.

Because of my criticism of many Guardian articles, I have needed to frame my consultancy as an outcast, referring to myself as controversial and now ‘independent and honest’ in order to work in fields like social work, where the Guardian readership is likely to be high. Because the assumptions of disabled people being unfit for society post-2010 as been ingrained in this readership, who included most people in the social care sector (and I intend to change the social care sector) my views about the meaningful inclusion of disabled people, which was the accepted norm before 2010, has become unfashionable. This is because of the rise in the collective voice of people with chronic illnesses, who see their situation as being inferior beings, and the decline in the voice of people with higher support needs if it ever existed, who naturally see themselves as part of society facing social barriers.

In examining the headlines ‘facts’ frequently stated in a long list of charges against the government particularly like that thousands of people ‘wrongly’ found ‘fit for work’ are dying as a result, and that the Independent Living Fund closing meant people would go in a care home ‘against their will’, it is possible to see a trail of Chinese whispers that are often based on Charity-based, poorly produced ‘feeling’ based research with wild headlines. In an era of high anti-government feeling and poverty porn, along with the fact most charity has a financially motivated interest (with their directors being paid 6 figure sums) to keep disabled people disempowered and dependent on their services, it is easy to manufacture ‘research’ to support their cause. This means they will present poorly produced research, often with an anti-government and disablist bias, as fact that the readership accepts as the norm.

Fundamentally, the issue is that disabled people are represented by the liberal media as a single group with universal needs and, therefore, rights. People’s level of impairment and social disadvantage varies greatly. As the welfare reforms try to acknowledge, someone with mild controlled diabetes can not be seen as needing the same level of support as someone with severe cerebral palsy. The Guardian and liberal media closes down any debate on the matter. They demand that people who experience ‘stress’ as their impairment should have (welfare) rights as a disabled person, basically allowing anyone to be disabled, based on the general fear of becoming ‘disabled’. The result is a failure to properly discuss the issues, reducing the support available for people with high support needs like myself. If someone with a heart condition like the fictitious Daniel Blake is portrayed as too unfit to be included in society, ‘real disabled people’ are portrayed as the burdens of families and carers and beyond help, as argued in Labour’s 2017 Manifesto. The Guardian uses the disability label to paint the less impaired, as have no social barriers like someone off sick with a bad back as ‘deserving’ of the same resources as what the public sees as disabled.

Guardian articles are widely spread daily on social media as a form of social conformity and a desire to been seen to be on the right side of a new political divide. Free speech, meaningful intelligential debate and critical thinking, which the liberal media claim to have a moral right to, have actually been demonised by the implication that not supporting their restricted viewpoint makes you racist, a supporter of Trump - that supporting UKIP makes you a heartless and immoral person.

I believe this undermining of free speech has been achieved through emotional blackmail and using personal stories to win arguments. Their response to any debate to welfare reforms, where employability is a goal, is to ask if you are willing for someone to go hungry? ‘Missing a meal’ is thrusted as a form of absolute poverty, without exploring the many reasons why someone may miss a meal, and asking if it may be balancing out elsewhere. Discussion is thus framed as an absolutist ‘you are either with us or against us‘.

The blocking exercise would be an activism on its readers’ parts, and require them to gather evidence towards a truthful answer from other sources. It will also raise questions as to whether the Guardian is the best of independent British Journalism as they claim or a monopolistic collection of vested interests as people are forced to seek more independent sources.

In the Guardian’s website footer and at, it claims to be financially struggling and now requiring charitable donations to retain the independence of its journalism. I believe that while many people do often read and react to selected articles posted on social media, including myself, the actual numbers of paying customers is reducing. This exercise will be a challenge to whether their online operation, which they decided to make a priority some years ago, is actually putting the financial stability of the paper at risk.

The Guardian out of all the papers is portrayed as the disability champion, in bed with the charities, knock them out and the battleground may change. Blocking the Guardian for a week would initially be condemned as a right wing attack on free speech, like causing social media outrage, but it will require individuals, who are spoon fed their news by their peers and the liberal accounts they follow, like many charities, to actually google the issues they are interested in and review a number of sites in order to raise a truthful position. This will remind them that there is a world outside their comfort zone and they may need to experience a little frustration to see the world has more than one viewpoint.
Blocked by
Sarah Divall,
Creative Coordinator and Vlogger at,

Amazon turned over €20 billion1 in 2016 in Europe and its market looks to be only growing, with the introduction of Amazon Australia in December 2017. The goliath, originally an online bookstore and most famous for its delivery service, has extended its arms into publishing and television and film production. Like most of us, I have turned to Amazon Prime in an hour of need, grateful that I can order the present I had long-since promised to buy with one click and that it will arrive, hastily couriered to my door. It is the ultimate convenience, everything we need is only a click away. Indeed, with the arrival of Amazon Prime Now, we don’t even need to wait a day - the front page of their website over Christmas was boasting a 2-hour delivery service on Christmas Eve. It’s not hard to see where the attraction in this lies. We run at a pace with which we can barely keep up, and a service such as this sells us more time. However, it also distances us further and further from the products we’re consuming, and imbues us with the idea that as consumers we are entitled to whatever we want, exactly as soon as we want it. Pushing for more, faster regardless of the human or environmental cost. Indeed, Jeff Bezos aptly considered Relentless as an original name for the company (if you type into your browser it will still take you to amazon).

Amazon’s business survives on fleets of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and consumes a mammoth amount of energy even before delivery is considered. It owns around 42% of the online cloud market, powered by data centres which contribute roughly 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions2. It is also make a huge contribution to the enormous amount of packaging waste the UK produces and throws away every year. You don’t have to look very hard to pull up baffling images of calendars wrapped in 45ft3 of brown paper or running socks complete with 7 ft of plastic air packaging4. Amazon say they are ‘continuing to promote’5 100% recyclable packaging but if we really never needed those 7 ft of plastic air pouches in the first place recycling them is a surreal waste of time, resources and public money.

As individuals, we have become accustomed in recent years to being asked to change our behaviours to turn the tide on climate change, so why aren’t we asking the same of the multi-billion dollar corporations pouring emissions into our shared atmosphere? Swathes of people are adapting their lifestyles and millions more are struggling with the effects of climate change in polluted cities, and at the moment it is the short-changed general public on whose shoulders the burden firmly rests.

Global warming caused by human activity is now something the majority of scientists and governmental organisations agree is happening and is driving us to the edge of a cliff. In 2017 especially the effects of global warming have been thrown sharply into focus with hurricanes, floods and wildfires causing damage that make it something increasingly difficult to shut the door on. The insurance firm Swiss Re has estimated the economic loss from global disasters in 2017 is $306 billion, nearly double that of the previous year and much higher than the 10 year average. If we’re just looking at the numbers the cost of paying for the effects of global warming is going to keep on rising and at the moment big corporations like amazon are shirking their share of the bill.

Unlike many of its competitors, Amazon has still never released a report on their greenhouse emissions, and while it does host solar panels at fulfilment centres and owns some 18 windfarms, we have no way of knowing the size of the carbon ocean which these gestures are surely a drop into. As consumers, and as people, we deserve transparency about what the largest corporations operating our planet are doing, and we should be demanding that one of the largest players in the field share and set an industry standard. At the moment, lawmakers and governments are refusing to make (or are actively dismantling) regulations which would make this compulsory, so perhaps the best way to get Amazon to listen it to hit them where it hurts, in the profit margin.
Blocked by
Dr. Gary Dejean,
PhD in Mass Media Communication

The Fox News Channel has always had a strong Republican leaning. They’ve also always had a strong inclination to bend the truth to their advantage. It can be argued that the same is true for every side of every political arena, and to their credit the Fox News Channel make a full use of their First Amendment rights. But since the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States, the channel has moved aggressively from its ethically borderline rhetoric to a full blown endorsement of the Cult of Personality surrounding the President.

Every single day, Fox News sing the praises of an incompetent regime whose very ascension to power is highly suspicious. Every single day, the Fox News Channel work as the echo chamber for the sitting President, repeating whatever nonsense he decided to spew that day, and attacking any sensible individual who would present any form of criticism or balanced viewpoint. It’s all about creating a space where proper debate, argued civil discourse, does not exist, and where the viewer is nursed in the comforting display of lies and ignorant tribalism.

As a single example that encapsulates the above, let me point you towards ‘Fox And Friends’ aired on 13th December 2017. On the morning following the surprise victory of Democratic candidate Douglas Jones’ over Roy Moore in Alabama, normal news channels (CBS, CNN, MSNBC…) were all covering the topic but on Fox News there was no mention of this scathing defeat. Instead, the hosts were busy going after the dignity and reputation of Colin Kaepernick (the black footballer known for kneeling during the anthem in protest against police violence) and that of Meryl Streep who had just said she didn’t want to be a political figure. Honourable people doing the honourable thing seems to make Fox News angry. That’s the kind of fights they pick: any reason to drag down a black and/or female compatriot is good to them. And while they were keeping the air busy with a five minute report on how to cut toast1, there was still no mention of Alabama.

By now it should be clear that Fox News anchors and their bosses have only one priority, that is to maintain and cultivate a comfort blanket for sexists and racists alike. The numerous scandals surrounding Bill O’Reilly’s departure earlier this year are a clear enough indication of that. Only after more than twenty advertisers pulled their ads from his show was he finally fired. Something similar happened when Sean Hannity started endorsing accused child Molester Roy Moore by attacking the women claiming to have been his victims. And all the while, the Murdoch brothers who inherited this network are about to get even more stinkingly rich, by selling the fiction department to Disney while keeping their hands on the dubious news channel2.

Information is power. A one-hundred-million people audience that gobbles blatant lies like they’re factual truth is power. Fifty billion dollars is power. And the Murdochs have too much of it, considering their lack of social ethics. As it stands right now, every decent media in the world sees clear as day that Fox News is currently trying to position itself as the antenna to the White House, the same way that Russia Today works with/for the Kremlin. The word is “governmental propaganda”, and every decent media in the world is nauseated by it.

The separation of powers between the Church and the State is as important to democratic governments as having an independent press. To that extent, it can be said that the current attitude of the Fox News Channel toward the sitting government is detrimental to the whole of Western democracy. That is why, without generally endorsing censorship, I today call for the boycott of Fox News, while also insisting that their business model is still profitable so long as advertising companies choose their airwaves to sell their products. There is no real or consistent ideology behind greedy mercantilism: there is only greed, and the treatment it deserves is to be shut down. That much is true for the entirety of Fox News, as far as I’m concerned. For more, you can visit this link, Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to past and present Fox News controversies. One of the most scandalous might be the conspiracy theory surrounding the death of Seth Rich3 – may his family find the peace they deserve. And as we delve into 2018, the Fox News Channel keeps on attacking the reputation of Special Counsel Bob Mueller. So let’s take this week to remember that factual truth is a real thing, and that news channels are supposed to let us know of it. Real objectivity may never be attained, but I mean, come on, at least you can try.
Blocked by
Shahar Avin,
Research Associate at the,
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge

YouTube is the most popular user-uploaded video content website in the world, and one of the most popular websites online.

I myself use YouTube on a nearly daily basis, and it is a great service, but take a minute to think about how you use it: Who do you follow? What communities do you participate in? Do you take part in the discussion? Do you take time to discover new cultures or communities? Is it providing you with value, professionally, educationally or entertainment wise? Are you paying for that value: do you use an ad blocker? Would you pay a subscription fee? Do you financially support the creators? Do you know anyone who does?

These are all very important question in regards to the infrastructure of not only YouTube, but as mentioned, globally YouTube is the most popular user-upload content website.

As participants in Google’s monetisation experiments, we may start wondering not only who to follow, but also how did you come to follow those that we are following, and how did we come to watch the videos we are watching on YouTube?

The recommendation algorithms designed to maximise the time we spend on the site are becoming a more politicised issue after events in 2017, but they have always been a cause for concern - discussed, amongst other places, on YouTube.

User engagement is the driving force behind all websites that rely on advertising, which means the algorithms are orientated towards maximum attention retention and content consumption. A side effect of this optimisation process is a regression to the mean - recommendations of consecutive videos trend towards more “mainstream” videos. This is effective in terms of keeping users on YouTube, but it means there is very little opportunity to discover less popular content, even though it exists on the platform in abundance.

As a dominant (perhaps the most dominant) video content platform, YouTube is shaping cultures all over the world. For those who choose to participate actively and discerningly, it is a place where niche cultures grow and thrive. However, for most of us, it is the place where our idiosyncratic interests slowly transform into more mainstream, homogenised consumption patterns.

Uploading your own videos - having your own voice - is a great idea, but with the mind boggling mountain of content on YouTube, the torrent that gets added everyday, and the algorithms that optimise for the trendy, polished and popular, it is very hard to be noticed. Which brings me to the issue of the revenue split between YouTube and creators. It is of course possible to make a living from vlogging and other content creation on YouTube, but the reliance on advertising revenue, which in turn depends on popularity, means only very few are ever able to make it to the positive feedback loop from which YouTube stars are made. The emergence of Patreon as an alternative funding route for creators (and the older route of merchandise sales) alleviate that pressure somewhat, though they have their own limitations, and we should remember that they make no money for YouTube itself (unlike advertising revenue) and so would naturally come as a lower priority for the platform.

This is the central issue - by having their business model centred around online advertising, YouTube will always fundamentally be oriented towards content consumption, which is not perfectly aligned with the numerous reasons people come to YouTube - to explore, to participate, to challenge, to share, to build communities.

Of course there are significant advantages to YouTube as a centralised platform for content sharing: it allows the concentration of data and resources that enable engineers to find solution to difficult technological challenges such as video storage and high-resolution streaming at a global scale, which smaller websites and teams would find much harder to pull off. Their massive scale also enables them to support a gigantic amount of free video content, which has proved hugely successful in its ability to educate and share knowledge, cater for niche interests, and allow digital communities to grow. YouTube is a far more democratic medium than traditional television - it does enable (even if it fails to encourage) exploration of other cultures and perspectives, and even other languages through automatic translation.

To survive, YouTube will need to continue optimising for ad revenue, or successfully pull off alternative business models (such as the YouTube Red subscription service). This does not mean, however, that your viewing habits need to be shaped by YouTube’s preferences, nor your content creation. I would urge you to take this block notice to ask yourself: what is it that you want out of your YouTube experience? What would you like to discover today? Which communities would you like to contribute to? Who will you teach, and what will you tell them? What will you learn today? Through whose eyes should you learn to see the world? Once you’ve answered these questions, ask the following: is any other place on the web providing me with an opportunity to do all this? If yes, should I be there instead? If not, should I be finding ways to give back to the creators and the engineers who are allowing me to do this?
Blocked by
Simran Hans,
Writer and at,
The Guardian

“The Voice of Creative Independence” – this is the strapline that sits at the top of online film publication IndieWire’s home page. An American website that covers film, TV, digital news, reviews and interviews, IndieWire is “for passionate fans and industry insiders” alike. And this week, as part of Mark Farid’s ‘Invisible Voice’ project, I’m blocking them. I should stress that IndieWire haven’t done anything uniquely wrong. However, within the insular world of film criticism, they are perhaps the purest distillation of the problem with headline-driven content.

You’d Think I Was Making Them Up, But Here Are 11 Real IndieWire Headlines: As America Reels from Charlottesville, ‘Lemon’ Finds Comedy in Unmasking Racism Elle Fanning’s Awful Hair in ‘3 Generations’ is Why Cisgender Actors Shouldn’t Play Trans Characters ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer Breakdown: 11 Possible Spoilers, From Lightsabers to Porgs and More #Dunkirk doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test and that’s okay. Here’s why Get Those Oscars ready: Barry Jenkins is back and he’s adapting James Baldwin Next Kristen Stewart’s Career in 34 Posters Christopher Nolan on Kubrick’s #EyesWideShut: “It’s a little bit hampered by very, very small and superficial, almost technical flaws” All the Netflix Original Series Opening Credit Sequences, Ranked How the Election Will Impact Nominations for Best Original Score and More Mark Hamill Destroys Ted Cruz on Twitter: “Maybe You’re Distracted From Watching Porn at the Office Again” Cheryl Dunye Always Knew Black Lives Mattered IndieWire are one example of the many online media outlets that use scream-y, clickbait-y, social media-friendly headlines to push traffic in a bid to make money from targeted online advertising. Fellow culprits include BuzzFeed, Salon, Slate, and Uproxx among numerous others.

Publications are under pressure from their publishers – and their sponsors – to do this in an economy where clicks mean eyeballs, and eyeballs make money. Without money, an already shrinking, squeezed industry can’t survive. But if this is the compromise that needs to be made to ensure online criticism survives, what is the cost? The point at which ‘shareability’ begins to manoeuvre content to meet corporate demands is the elephant in the room of critical discourse. It is the critic’s responsibility to figure out what a film is doing regardless of how it’s been packaged. If there is no distance between the critic’s reading of the film and the narrative determined by those deciding how the film is going to be sold, criticism is simply coverage that exists as part of a film’s marketing strategy. In theory, critics and PRs should be able to work together to achieve a common goal – to encourage people to see films. Yet when criticism is shaped around baiting, SEO-friendly headlines, it becomes less about reviewing the film and more about reviewing the effectiveness of its messaging as determined by a marketing machine.

A headline like ‘Get Those Oscars ready: Barry Jenkins is back and he’s adapting James Baldwin Next’ doesn’t open up Jenkins’s filmmaking to more people; it puts parameters on how his work is supposed to be received. A headline like ‘Christopher Nolan on Kubrick’s #EyesWideShut: “It’s a little bit hampered by very, very small and superficial, almost technical flaws”’ asks readers to click in bad faith, despite the fact that in the actual article, Nolan calls the film an “extraordinary achievement”. ‘#Dunkirk doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test and that’s okay. Here’s why’ is a reactionary headline that anticipates and encourages a feminist backlash to a film about male soldiers. Headlines like these are mutating online spaces for criticism into digital graves for content.

It’s not only the publishers who are being prioritised over the films themselves. In an article for the Village Voice, Larissa Pham criticises “low-maintenance, high-energy, easy-to-digest criticism that examined pop culture for its superficial adherence (or failure to adhere) to liberal politics in a kind of battle of the wokest”. Headlines like ‘Elle Fanning’s Awful Hair in ‘3 Generations’ is Why Cisgender Actors Shouldn’t Play Trans Characters’ or ‘Cheryl Dunye Always Knew Black Lives Mattered’ or ‘Todd Haynes’ Carol is a Masterful Lesbian Romance Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara’ reduce films to their most basic liberal appeal. These appeals to diversity form the backbone of IndieWire’s content, despite the website’s dearth of ‘diverse’ staff writers. This framing is self-congratulatory; by clicking and sharing these articles, readers are able to buy into a limited form of contemporary cultural appreciation that evaluates an artwork’s worth by how closely it conforms to their personal values.

IndieWire’s former network of affiliated issue-focused blogs like Melissa Silverstein’s Women & Hollywood, or Shadow & Act, which looked at specifically at black film, not to mention the sharp features writing over at the now-independent The Playlist, built communities around their political positions. Now those properties have become independent and can’t be relied on to drive traffic to the site - except via their content from before the split, which remains part of IndieWire’s online archive. Those clicks are being courted by liberal buzzwords and references to the news as cheap hooks.

In addition to this political posturing, there is something transparently desperate about a click-through gallery of 34 movie posters pegged to a high-profile, frequently-googled actress with zero commentary to contextualise it. Reporting a story lifted from other publications rather than actually breaking it (or at least bothering to analyse it) creates an unnecessary feedback loop of viral non-news, clogging the already overflowing toilet of takes that is Twitter. And if the apparatus around a piece of moving image work (its trailer, its poster, its opening credits sequence) needs to be ‘reviewed’ at all, surely it’s to examine it as marketing apparatus and not to break it down for what it might reveal about a film’s plot.

The breathless jumps from Trump-era liberal indignation and questions of criticism to Stranger Things trailer breakdowns are whiplash-inducing. Both types of writing are clickbait – and both work as distraction tactics that shift the focus onto film ephemera rather than films themselves. Which is to say, it seems disingenuous for a website to brand itself as ‘The Voice of Creative Independence’ and advocate for film-as-art, when their entire online strategy seems anathema to championing independent filmmakers who aren’t already drowning in coverage.

The website was created as an indie cinema-focused alternative to trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Given the overwhelming amount of its output pegged to a Disney blockbuster franchise, what does the name IndieWire even refer to anymore? I’d like to see online outlets thinking of catchy headlines to sell thoughtful criticism, rather than building stories around sellable titles and angles determined by PRs. I’d like to see publishers giving their publications more editorial autonomy. And I’d really like to see online publications that claim they care about independent films use their platforms to celebrate and give space to smaller, weirder films and filmmakers with the same energy as they cover Star Wars. The Voice of Creative Independence should be setting an agenda, not pandering to it.