China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you
Politics > China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you Politics China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you Chinese people are being introduced to a scheme that monitors their behaviour, scores them, and doles out punishments and rewards. Published:
An internet cafe in Wuhan, China. (REUTERS/Stringer) China plans to rank all its citizens based on their “social credit” by 2020. People can be rewarded or punished according to their scores. Like private financial credit scores, a person’s social scores can move up and down according to their behavior. At the moment the system is piecemeal — some are run by city councils, while others are scored by private tech platforms that hold personal data. Scroll down to see how you can be punished or rewarded.
The Chinese state is setting up a vast ranking system system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.”
The “social credit system,” first announced in 2014, aims to reinforce the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful,” according to a government document .
The program is due to be fully operational nationwide by 2020, but is being piloted for millions of people across the country already. The scheme will be mandatory.
At the moment the system is piecemeal — some are run by city councils, others are scored by private tech platforms which hold personal data.
Like private credit scores, a person’s social score can move up and down depending on their behavior. The exact methodology is a secret — but examples of infractions include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online. 1. Banning you from flying or getting the train.
A railway station waiting hall in Hangzhou in February 2016. (REUTERS/Stringer)
China has already started punishing people by restricting their travel.
Nine million people with low scores have been blocked from buying tickets for domestic flights, Channel News Asia reported in March , citing official statistics.
They can also clamp down on luxury options — three million people are barred from getting business-class train tickets.
The eventual system will punish bad passengers specifically. Potential misdeeds include trying to ride with no ticket, loitering in front of boarding gates, or smoking in no-smoking areas. 2. Throttling your internet speeds.
2. Throttling your internet speeds. (photosteve101 / Flickr, CC)
This is according to Rachel Botsman, an author who published part of her book on tech security on Wired last year. The exact mechanics aren’t clear yet.
According to Foreign Policy , credit systems monitor whether people pay bills on time, much like financial credit trackers — but also ascribe a moral dimension.
Other mooted punishable offences include spending too long playing video games, wasting money on frivolous purchases and posting on social media.
Spreading fake news, specifically about terrorist attacks or airport security, will also be punishable offences. 3. Banning you — or your kids — from the best schools.
Students sing the national anthem in the playground during the flag-hoisting ceremony at their school in Shanghai., September 27, 2017. (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images)
17 people who refused to carry out military service last year were barred from enrolling in higher education, applying for high school, or continuing their studies, Beijing News reported .
In July, a Chinese university denied an incoming student his spot because the student’s father had a bad social credit score. 4. Stopping you getting the best jobs.
The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, one of China’s largest state buildings. (Wikipedia)
“Trust-breaking” individuals would also be banned from doing management jobs in state-owned firms and big banks.
Some crimes, like fraud and embezzlement, would also have a big effect on social credit, Botsman reported. 5. Keeping you out of the best hotels.
The state-owned, five-star Beijing Hotel. (James Jin/Flickr)
People who refused military service were also banned from some holidays and hotels — showing that vacation plans are fair game too.
The regime rewards people here as well as punishes them.
People with good scores can speed up travel applications to places like Europe, Botsman said.
An unidentified woman in Beijing also told the BBC in 2015 that she was able to book a hotel without having to pay a cash deposit because she had a good score. 6. Getting your dog taken away.
A woman holds her pet dog in the middle of a traffic jam in Anhui province in January 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)
The eastern Chinese city of Jinan started enforcing a social credit system for dog owners in 2017, whereby pet owners get points deducted if the dog is walked without a leash or causes public disturbances.
Those who lost all their points had their dogs confiscated and had to take a test on regulations required for pet ownership.