I had a problem today. My business website I discovered, this one, was shorn of its legally required identification details: business name, company number, registered address, business address, etc.
I contacted WordPress, who host themselves – on a business plan – my site, ASAP, as you might have imagined.
They were supportive, as always. And enquiring, as all who work in the web (kinda all of us, no?) have had to become. For there is an assumption out there by some of the worst that if something can be done, one has a right to do it. I get the aspirational edge in all this, but just because a window is made of a thin pane of glass doesn’t make the crime of breaking and entering any the less.
Anyhow. I am a careful soul, as those of you who know me will surely attest to. So I was looking to protect both my customers and web-users as well as my sense that the world wasn’t such a terrible place after all. I preferred that, essentially, I might be imagining things. Yer know?
Even as I do – sort of against my better judgement – hold the opinion that “nothing” doesn’t exist in tech: everything always means something. At the very least in that world. At the very least there.
So. My very cool Happiness Engineer – really no complaints here, ever, with any of them – says this:
I am following up with you regarding our chat earlier today for a text widget that had gone missing from your website. I have worked with my Jetpack Rewind team to confirm that Activity Logs will show the most detailed information about each activity to both you and me; meaning that we don’t have access to logs which provide more granular information than what you can see.
We’re not able to apply these backups to any other website besides your own. I understand that you don’t wish to Rewind to these points in time to see when the widget was present and then removed; this is fine, but we don’t have any other visual way within WordPress.com to display this action.
I have checked your website’s information in the Internet Wayback Machine. This is a public internet achieve that takes snapshots of pages and displays their content at any point in time. Your website has four records present here, including today’s snapshot. You can see all of the records here:
This was the first weird bit of the afternoon – after, of course, discovering that my legally required company data had disappeared in a puff of smoke. When I clicked through to the link, I got the 2019 calendar, and then was able to go to the 2018 one, no probs:
However, when I clicked on the 27th December, all I got was today’s version, with the company data that, naturally, I had quickly returned to its rightful place as soon as I had realised there was an issue. It was utterly impossible, either via my office wifi, via EE on my iPhone and Nokia 3, via Vodafone on my Pixel, via Vodafone hotspotted to my laptop, and via Virgin Media on my home wifi to get the Wayback Machine to show me how the page looked on December 27th. Even though my Happiness Engineer claimed to have seen it for herself.
Let’s continue with what she said:
When I review the 12/27 snapshot I can see your company details in a text widget on the right sidebar of your website. This confirms that they were present at this time. After that I reviewed the website’s activity log and only found one entry of a text widget being deleted, a few minutes after a login from your account:
She then gave me a screenshot of a snag.gy link, whose visibility my Gmail infrastructure refused to display on the two Androids above, and on the email of which the “show images” option, now I am on home wifi, doesn’t exist anywhere any more. Earlier in the afternoon, it was there. I know. I clicked on it to show the screenshot. It didn’t show.
I tried whilst away from home to access the snag.gy link direct, but could only do so on Vodafone on my Pixel, and it showed me accessing my site from my office wifi at 12.45 pm today.
My Happiness Engineer then went on to say that on all the activity logs since December 27th, there had been no change to the widget signposted. Without the Wayback Machine having crawled my website in the intervening period, she therefore assumed that I was responsible for removing the widget this early afternoon. Which in the light of the evidence to hand, ie no widget activity in the logs since December 27th’s Wayback Machine crawl, was fairly rational.
Still doesn’t explain why the Wayback Machine doesn’t allow me to see the data for the 27th, and jumps me directly to today’s date.
Anyhow. This obviously is why she goes on to say:
There are no other records of a widget being removed, so we can assume this was the point in time where the content was deleted.
I do wonder whether my site hasn’t been absent of its company data since December 27th itself. Although you have to ask why remove only company data, not bring down the whole site. And that is a good question.
My theory, well developed by now, is that we are dealing with neo-terrorism. What I describe as a terrorism not of the few on the masses but of the stealthy on particular individuals, over a sustained period of time, in order to ensure such individuals, perhaps of promise, perhaps judged a threat to interests certain parties enjoy, perhaps only a person to be followed just in case anything ever became more of them, do not realise the danger they could pose to an established, and evermore establishing, order.
We got it wrong, us progressives. Or they taught us wrong. We thought, with our Marx and our gentle social democracy, that progress whilst slow was inevitable. The moneyed, however, have never forgotten an obvious truth: history can turn on a sixpence, on the speech of one man, one woman, genders all. An act of sustained bravery, and then a revelation of long-term hatred, can make people rise.
The left always assumed history was on their side. The right always remembered the First World War, and its trigger. And so we go on, and so we should never forget ourselves.
Every individual deserves their space. No individual deserves for the state to abandon them to the forces of stealthy, hidden, cyberwar. The cyberwar I believe I have suffered since 2002 at least. The cyberwar of those who, seeing a thin pane of glass, believe it not only can but also deserves to be shattered.
But the reason why just make a small change – admittedly of legal consequences – when you could have brought the whole house of cards tumbling down? Ever see the film “Gaslight”? That’s what I think has been done to me, and to many others diagnosed paranoid, since at least as long ago as 2002 – and maybe for a much much longer reach into the past. A big change to one’s environment would be so obvious it could be proved. A series of minimal ones can only ever be detected and known by the object of the attacks: hard, so desperately hard, to share with anyone.
This is what my software will one day facilitate, however: the sharing of experiences of neo-terrorism by these pretty evil, where not lazily casual, stealthy against the individual.
And that is why I believe they are stepping up their game.
Read how the mental health system was used to lock up people like myself:
Then ask yourself if “Gaslight” isn’t actually, now, a manual of broad and widespread instruction, across frontiers, and across cultures. And ask yourself, knowing the film, and having the means, and owning the opportunity, why you wouldn’t do it too?
Also published on Medium.