When the oligarchs turn us off

In the wake of the storm of Trump supporters on the Capitol, Twitter and Facebook have blocked Trump’s Accounts to prevent him from calling for demonstrations again. Whether this was a justified step can be discussed. It is not the subject of the following consideration.

The topic is another – one that is more important for our future: are we aware that we are more and more dependent on digital networks and digital “values” down to the existential level? The operators of the digital service providers can switch us off from one hour to the other – “switch off” in almost every sense of the word.

Who hasn’t experienced that your own credit card didn’t work in another country? This can then be a very small foretaste of how the non-functioning of credit cards can even be politically intentional. It happened to me in the 1980s in South America. I had an “American Express"card back then. Due to a current problem between Brazil and the USA, this card type was “switched off"in Brazil. But how to get a rental car if you don’t have a working credit card? My lesson: When I travel around, I always have at least two credit or debit cards with me.

A memorable experience

Three years ago, my wife and I had to replace our passports, which had expired in the meantime, with new ones in order to travel to a country for which an entry visa was necessary. The passage to the passport office in Lugano was still completely normal. But then a telephone call came from the same place: the issuing of the passport for my wife was not possible, because this Person did not exist in the Swiss Register, and I was advised to go to the residents ' control. But there they were perplexed, they could not do anything there, said the responsible people. So how to “prove” that my wife actually existed? The woman, who had been a naturalized citizen for many years, had always paid AHV, for example. But who had the competence to include them again in the digital Register used by the Passport Office? Finally, an understanding woman at the Zofingen civil registry office helped, who could not only confirm on the basis of paper documents that we had been married years before in a municipality of her district civil registry office correctly, but who also researched in the “System”, in which my wife was now non-existent. Finally it was found where the error had happened and it was corrected. My wife was thus once again in existence and was able to obtain a valid passport again. “De iure”, as paradoxical as it sounds, she had been travelling for several years with a” false " passport without knowing it. It would have been hard to imagine what would have happened, we would have had a bigger Problem abroad and the Swiss embassy would have had to be involved. Switzerland would have reported: we do not know this woman.

The ultimate experience: the impact of sanctions

In 2014, the people of Crimea voted in a Referendum to no longer belong to Ukraine, but to Russia, a secession. Since this Referendum was held in Kiev without the permission of the government, this secession is considered by most constitutional lawyers to be contrary to international law. There was therefore a vote in the UN on sanctions, which was very close, but thanks to miniature states such as Andorra, Monaco or San Marino, which have the same “voting rights” in the UN as China or India, with populations of billions, led to a yes for sanctions.

As a critical Journalist, I therefore took the not-so-simple “pleasure” of travelling the Crimea personally in 2019. Fortunately, I knew about the credit cards not working in Crimea due to sanctions. So at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow I could still leave a reasonable amount of Russian rubles out of the ATM. In the Crimea, however, nothing worked anymore, even my Swiss mobile phone failed the service. In order to have a sat nav in the rental car, I had to buy a Russian Chip at Simferopol airport and load my mobile phone with it, the Swisscom Chip was “dead”.

The consequences of the experiences

All electronic money can be switched off-legally or illegally. (It is no coincidence that many wealthy people are currently stacking Gold in their vaults again.) Online platforms on the Internet can be shut down, legally or illegally. Personal email Accounts can be turned off, legally or illegally. The digital navigation aid, whether in the car or on a mountain hike, can be switched off. All social media can be shut down, legally or illegally. And all this not only through state bodies, but also through the private companies that offer these digital services. In my wife’s case, it turned out to be a false Manipulation by a System user. In the case of Crimea, it was political bodies that ordered the shutdown. Swisscom was also involved. In the case of the closure of Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook Accounts, it was the decision of the heads of private companies to pull the plug on him. From all these” cases " one must learn one thing above all else: we can simply be switched off, from one hour to the next – switched off with serious consequences in everyday life, which can reach into the existential.

The e-ID must not be privatized

The Federal Council and parliament have decided that, in addition to the ordinary passport, we Swiss should also have a digital “identity card”, a so-called e-ID, so that we only have to identify ourselves with a password, this e-ID, for access to the most diverse official and private platforms on the Internet. The proposal is understandable. However, the decision by the Federal Council and parliament to leave the Administration of this e-ID to private companies is unacceptable.

Not unexpectedly, the Referendum was taken against this solution. On March 7, in a few weeks, we can vote on it. You just have to realize what doesn’t work anymore, if you are “turned off”, then you know how to vote. Yes, the state can do one – can do us! - “turn off”, legal or illegal or also due to a technical or human error. Nevertheless, the possibility of “eliminating” us as a member of our human society by technical means must be reduced to a Minimum. That in the future a private, profit-oriented company can block me from access to X official or private platforms and institutions via my e-ID is absolutely unacceptable to me.