A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame

This story continues to fascinate me. 


China’s social credit system started in 2015. 


China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as “information collectors” (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing–good and bad. 


Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 


If you do good things in Chinese society–helping people, cleaning up, being honest–you get points added. 


If you do bad things in China–fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest–you get points deducted. 


Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble–and can get blacklisted!


A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 


But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts–it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 


While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of “Big Brother”!


On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn’t that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?


Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?


It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.


Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people’s knickers is another. 


This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. 😉

Social Media Totalitarianism

The Chinese government has the most brilliant as well as frightening use and control of social media. 


I am not just talking about blocking Internet sites and free information flow. 


They actually have mastered the use of social media for tracking and rewarding or punishing citizen behavior.


Their social credit system rates people’s behavior online for everything they do!


Similar to likes and dislikes, you are either labeled a “model citizen” sought after for jobs and good housing or you can be an “enemy of the state” treated as a social outcast who can’t even leave the country anymore. 


Everything about you is now based on what you are rated (whether true or not)!


Now in China the government has added a snitching tool/app where people are encouraged through a points system that offers rewards like store discounts, coupons for coffee, taxis, and music streaming, in order to get them to report covertly on their neighbors–are their fellow citizens fighting, is there mental illness, are people cheating on their taxes, etc. 


You’re being surveilled not just by the grid system, where every 300 households are watched and checked-in on by a “grid manager,” but you are subject to daily intrusion by anyone that wants to report on you. 


Communication to “Big Brother” is way overvalued, while privacy and respect of the people are no longer important values or concerns. 


Instead of a Security Operations Center to monitor and command response to life-threatening catastrophes and emergencies, now there is a “Social Governance Integrated Command Center” to display video and biometric surveillance from throughout the country as well as to show what are the “moods” and which “issues” are trending. 


Talking about having a finger on the pulse of what’s going on…


I say this is all brilliant and malign, because social media which can be a tool for connecting people and for the free flow of information and progress is instead used for near ultimate control and enslavement of the masses–both their minds and their behaviors. 


People should not be treated as servants of the state and subjected to ever-encroaching social media surveillance and control that is not carefully balanced directly to absolutely necessary national security. 


Rather the state and its levers of people’s supreme power should be subject to the wants and needs of its people who must freely decide on their collective futures and maintaining human rights. 


Totalitarianism by police state, imprisonment, torture and “re-education” is now unfortunately facilitated by social media monitoring,  and credits system where truly you are watched by Big Brother in the flesh and in the bytes. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)