The following is extraordinarily creepy and disturbing. It’s also extremely clever, from a jackbooted, fascist thug perspective. When massive censorship itself isn’t enough...
China’s plan to control the hearts, minds and internet connections of its citizens continues unimpeded. That’s the great thing about authoritarian regimes: rollout of mandatory programs is usually only a problem of logistics, not opposition.
The Chinese government has mandated a rating system for all of its connected citizens. It looks like a credit rating but goes much deeper than just tying a measurement of financial risk to a number. It’s a way of defining who someone in terms of the government’s desires and aims. And its desires aren’t all that honorable.
Everybody is measured by a score between 350 and 950, which is linked to their national identity card. While currently supposedly voluntary, the government has announced that it will be mandatory by 2020…
In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like, such as about the Tiananmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse.
This is where all the government’s moves towards greater control of the internet comes to fruition. To keep “score,” the government needs to tie IDs to online activity. Keeping the internet within the government’s walls makes it that much easier. But it’s not just online activity that will affect “citizen scores.” It’s almost every aspect of their lives.
Most disheartening is the fact that many citizens seem to view higher scores as status symbols.
Sadly, many Chinese appear to be embracing the score as a measure of social worth, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
How do you say “fucking morons” in Mandarin?
The government’s program feeds on the natural competitive desires of human beings. There may be no official leaderboard (YET!) but with millions of easily-accessed “citizen scores,” anyone can enter this unofficial score-measuring contest. The government obviously realizes this, as it has tied perks to certain score tiers.
Those with higher scores are rewarded with concrete benefits. Those who reach 700, for example, get easy access to a Singapore travel permit, while those who hit 750 get an even more valued visa.
Klout, but for controlling the hearts and minds of a large populace.
So who will run this sick, perverted system? Let’s turn to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing for the answer:
It’s a perfect storm of terrible: the program will be administered by Alibaba (China’s answer to Amazon) and Tencent (the country’s huge, government-compliant social network). Your score will be generated not only by your activities, but by the activities of the friends in your social graph — the people you identify as friends on social media. Your score will be decremented for doing things like mentioning Tienanmen Square or speculating on official corruption, or for participating in activities that the state wishes to “nudge” you away from, like playing video-games.
Paternalism, surveillance, social control, guilt by association, paternalistic application of behavioral economics and ideology-driven shunning and isolation — it’s like someone took all my novels and blended them together, and turned them into policy (with Chinese characteristics).
(Unless you have a serf score of 700 or higher)
* * *
For related articles, see: