China's "social credit score" is already claiming victims

It seems like only yesterday that Ed was writing about China’s new “social credit score” for all its citizens and how that might affect their daily lives. (Okay… it was actually two days ago.) It was a scary sounding scheme where the equivalent of traffic cameras would be tracking the activity of citizens using facial recognition software, matching the results with their social media accounts and monitoring them for unpopular activities such as criticizing the communist party or smoking in public. Of course, setting up a system like that in a country with such a massive population will probably take years so they shouldn’t have to worry about it for a while yet, right?

Nope. Turns out it took less than a week. They’ve obviously been preparing this for a while and the penalties began rolling out immediately. One journalist who had tweeted some things the ruling party didn’t care for found himself unable to board a flight, rent a car or even apply for a mortgage. (CBS New York)

When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.

“I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” he said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

And the list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score — a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.

Wow. So the Chinese have this system down to the point where they can monitor all your purchases. If you buy Chinese made products your social credit score goes up. If you buy something imported it goes down. And anyone who feels like being a snitch can simply tag you on Facebook, claiming that you’re engaging in “untrustworthy” behavior and sink your score in the process.

That’s really the difference between an actual democracy and a communist or socialist state. I’ve long been an advocate of allowing cameras in public which law enforcement could access to stop crime more quickly, but that’s because we have a system where any intrusive behavior on the part of the police can be challenged in court. The Chinese have no such recourse, so they’re essentially stuck with whatever punishment the party chooses to mete out to you.

In case you’ve never checked out the series Black Mirror, the first episode of season three (called “Nosedive“) deals with an almost identical scenario. Everyone is constantly being rated on a ubiquitous social media app by the people they meet. Those with mediocre scores can only rent cheap apartments in less desirable neighborhoods or older model beat up cars. Allowing your score to sink too low can leave you homeless and stuck in jail or some sort of government work-farm. It’s a chilling bit of dystopian future fiction.

Except it’s not fiction anymore, is it? It’s actually happening in China, and journalists are the first ones being sent to the ghetto.

Jazz Shaw Jul 06, 2022 9:01 AM ET