It’s like the Black Mirror episode NoseDive, except it’s real this time. You know, the episode where Lacie Pound (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) lives in a futuristic world where the one thing that matters most is your personal social rating?
In the episode, this rating can prevent you from getting the rental car you want or even from going to a friend’s wedding. The episode hits a little too close to home though, as China has already begun to implement their ‘social credit’ system.
The system was first announced in China in 2014, and enrollment is currently in the millions. The system is mandatory, which means there’s no way to opt out. The Chinese government wants to have the full system in place by 2020 and claims it will “make trustworthy people benefit everywhere and untrustworthy people restricted everywhere.”
It works mostly like the credit system does. Except instead of not paying your credit card or having massive student loan debts drag down your credit score, things like bad driving, being rude to other people, and creating fake news can drive your social credit down.
The system itself is still very segmented. Local municipalities control the data in some areas, while larger tech firms have hands in the data of other users.
Here are just a few of the ways that the social credit system can bar average citizens from basic necessities.
1. Banning you from purchasing plane or train tickets
China has already started barring people from purchasing certain travel options. According to a Channel News Asia report from March, nine million people are blocked from buying domestic flights.
There’s also restrictions on upgrades – a further three million people are prevented from riding in the business class on trains.
The Chinese social credit system even affects people who manage to get on the plane or train. Credit scores can drop by trying to ride without a ticket, being rude to other passengers, or smoking in a non-smoking area.
2. Banning you from that 5-star hotel
A woman in Beijing told BBC in 2015 that she was able to book a hotel without a cash deposit because she had a good credit score. People can also get better rates for their stay, and even speed up travel applications.
Yet the social credit system also has the adverse effect for some people. It can ban people from booking hotel rooms if they have a bad social credit rating.
3. Banning you from your dream job
If the punishments aren’t bad enough for you, here’s one that will leave you shaking. Now employers are also looking at your social credit score.
Companies may not grant you a placement if your social credit score is too low. This means that the best jobs are only for the “good people”.
4. Throttling your internet speeds
The Chinese social credit system also extends to your technology. By paying your bills late or just having a bad credit score in general, your internet speeds may be throttled.
This can also result from posting too much on social media, or playing too many video games. This just goes to show that the Chinese government is tracking everything their citizens do, online and offline.
A blacklist is already being implemented
The scrolling list on the left shows names alongside ID numbers, while the list on the right shows company names. This seems to be the rolling prototype for identifying citizens.
The Human Rights Watch reported that a lawyer named Li Xiaolin was barred from booking plane tickets. In failing to resolve a court order in 2015, Xiaolin found himself on a list much like the one above, stranded 1200 miles from home.
His isn’t the only story of being stranded, as many Chinese citizens who have been automatically placed into the system have found themselves restricted from basic necessities.
The social credit system also rewards people with good scores
One example of citizens being rewarded is on China’s biggest dating site, Baihe. The BBC reported that Baihe will ‘boost’ the profiles of users who are in good credit standings. This boost will most likely come in the form of showing “good” profiles to more people. So much for Tinder Gold.
Another example is of citizens getting better interest rates at banks, discounts on bills, and being able to rent without paying deposits. According to Foreign Policy, these advantages were available to people in Rongcheng in eastern China.
Supposedly China’s social credit system is making better people
A 32-year old entrepreneur who gave his name as Chen told Foreign Policy:
“I feel like in the past six months, people’s behaviour has gotten better and better.
“For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points.
“At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it.”
There’s two sides to the coin in this system, as some users argue that it will motivate people to become better citizens. Other users argue that it will decrease morale as the social gap widens between the “good” and the “bad” citizens.
What do you think of China’s social credit system? Let me know in the comments below!