The financial industry is taking a step further in evaluating customers’ worthiness for banking facilities, as they begin to scrutinize social media accounts based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) screening criteria, warns former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
Farage, who has been vocal against what he calls “woke capitalism,” has been advocating for freedom of speech as banks have become much more politically active.
“Banks are not just about deposits and loans anymore. They’re now politically active institutions. If they can do it to me, they can do it to you,” warns Farage.
He warns about the increasing trend of “debanking” — closing accounts of individuals whose opinions don’t match the banks’ preferences. This includes those leaning towards conservative views, as well as those engaged in professions that left-wing entities disfavor, such as gun brokers and huntsmen.
Banks have traditionally been neutral institutions. However, Farage’s alarming revelation about banks collaborating with credit agencies to conduct “word checks” on their customers’ social media accounts, indicates a potential threat to free speech and privacy rights.
“The British clearing banks are now working with some credit agencies to put in place word checks on their social media accounts,” reveals Farage. This could lead to situations where one’s ability to pay bills or make purchases depends on the kind of opinions they express online.
This concept of assessing potential customers by their social media use isn’t novel. Farage’s revelations, however, shine a light on the magnitude and depth of the debanking issue that’s taking place in the United Kingdom.
Farage has already received an overwhelming response from the public sharing their experiences of being debanked and mistreated by financial institutions. Some claim to have lost their accounts for voicing their views on controversial topics, or for questioning bank policies.
The shift towards a cashless society and central bank digital currencies also fuels Farage’s concerns. He highlights the development of a social credit score-like system, which he believes will give banks control over people’s lives.
Farage has made some progress in the UK, resulting in the resignation of CEOs from a bank and a banking group over their involvement in debanking practices. However, he acknowledges that more work is needed to safeguard freedom of speech and prevent debanking practices from becoming mainstream.
“The United Kingdom has a strong tradition of democracy and freedom of speech, and that’s what’s under attack now. We need to re-establish these principles,” emphasizes Farage.
The debanking issue made headlines last month when Farage disclosed that his long-standing bank was shutting down both his business and personal accounts. While the bank tried to justify the decision based on Farage’s financial position, it was later established that the motive was politically driven.