Demystification Committee

Offshore A–Z

Offshore A—Z is an endless public index of companies registered in a number of tax heavens. Each company listed on Offshore A—Z is real, but its entry represents a mix of public facts and fictional factoids, generated in an attempt to both inform and speculate on the nature and role of offshore companies.

Offshore A—Z currently takes the form of a website [offshoreAZ.company] re-appropriating the default language of the early Web 2.0. Furthermore, it explores the aesthetic possibilities of the notions of ‘offshore’ and ‘haven’ through Caribbean hues, sounds and island-like forms.

The project gives a form to a large amount of offshore companies data, in the attempt to shed a light on the covert world of tax avoidance, triggering new connections and possible speculations. The snippets of information that could be found online about companies potentially involved in oblique financial practices were scraped using, as a source, the online company registers that tax havens keep as an empty gesture towards transparency. This information, comprising records on half a million companies, and naturally full of gaps, was compiled into a single database in an attempt to identify patterns and links.

On this database, we trained and ran a number of algorithms aimed at filling in the gaps, speculating – through technology – on the forms of some of the companies. A web scraper looks for keywords and attempts to find images to give the companies a visual representation. A neural network, trained on the objectives we could find for the offshore entities provides a company mission statement for each nondescript entity. You can test it here.

Finally, a Twitter Bot releases one speculative company description every 15 minutes, linking to the centralised database [the Offshore A–Z] to provide a permanent record of the possible activities of these entities. You can follow the stream of companies @offshoreAZ.

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