Social Credit System Has Potential to Destroy Lives
Social Credit System Has Potential to Destroy Lives
August 26, 2019
A 2016 episode of the science fiction series “Black Mirror” titled “Nosedive” shows us a twisted society where individuals’ social credit determines their worth, and where everyone’s status in society is based on their social credit score.
In “Nosedive,” people can rate each other based on every interaction they have anywhere between one to five stars, which can impact their socioeconomic status. This status determines where you live, what kind of car you drive, what kind of job you hold, and even whether you can enter certain areas of the country. The episode follows the adventures of Lacie, who finds an opportunity to elevate her ratings and move into a more luxurious home after being chosen by her popular childhood friend to be maid of honor in her wedding, but whose social credit takes a nosedive after a series of mishaps.
Eventually Lacie’s social credit nosedives to such depths, that she cannot rent a decent car, and cannot even get into the gated community where her friend’s wedding is taking place.
But if you think this scary society cannot possibly become a reality, please take a look at China, which has been using a similar social credit system since 2014. China’s social credit system aims to alter individual behavior using this social credit totalitarianism, with Beijing using the social credit system to determine whether an individual can receive benefits, travel, or even use public transportation.
In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government.
It can also award points for charitable donations or even taking one’s own parents to the doctor.
Punishments can be harsh, including bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools. It can also result in slower internet connections and social stigmatization in the form of registration on a public blacklist.
But that can’t happen here, you cry!
Think again. It can and it already is.
Uber already allows drivers to give you a passenger rating of one-five stars based on your interaction and ban you from using the service if your score is too low.
Having a bad day and don’t want to chat with your driver? That’s a possibility for a lower score.
Don’t want to leave a tip, because your trip is already expensive enough? Your driver can rate you down.
Haven’t fastened your seatbelt or displayed an “attitude” that offends your driver? That’s a one-star rating for you.
Airbnb hosts also have the opportunity to rate their guests, and if a host thinks you’ve been sloppy or left the place in worse shape than when you arrived, you can be rated down, which eventually will impact your ability to book a room with the service.
Insurance companies can use social media information to determine your premiums. Do you like posting photos of your really unhealthy dinner on Instagram or show yourself guzzling vast amounts of booze at numerous parties on Facebook? Guess what! Now, life insurance companies can use this information to determine risk and either raise your premiums or deny you coverage outright.
From there, it’s only a small step into government intrusion the likes of which we have never seen before!
Social media companies already use government terrorist designations to remove content from groups such as HAMAS and Hizballah from their platforms. What happens if they also use TSA no-fly designations – nearly half of which in 2014 contained names of individuals who had nothing to do with terrorism – to deplatform people? What if those same lists are used to deny people services such as hotel rooms and transportation? They’re already denied travel!
And a recent report said that the Trump Administration voiced approval for the idea to use technology from Google and other tech companies to deny certain people the right to keep and bear arms.
Look, no one likes to deal with rude, obnoxious, slobs in their regular lives and, certainly, looking at individual social media accounts can provide information that allows you to block those interactions. But this system is rife with abuse as it is, and the pressure this social credit system can place on individuals – both through government and private platforms can and does result in totalitarian control of our behavior, impacting our daily lives and relationships in ways we haven’t even begun to explore.
And while social media companies already enforce subjective norms that often result in the silencing of conservative voices on the Internet, how long before utility companies begin to refuse service to people who have a low credit score? How long before phone companies shut down accounts of individuals who conduct “offensive” conversations? How long before social media interactions are used to determine whether you receive a home or vehicle loan?
And how long before we – as a society – begin to censor ourselves to such a degree that we are no longer free to voice unpopular opinions or even have a bad day?
Do we want to put ourselves in self-imposed cages, limiting our personal freedoms in fear that our lives, our livelihoods, and our friendships will disappear if we say the wrong thing to the wrong person? And do we want to put ourselves under so much social pressure, imposing a gang mentality on those around us to ensure a higher social credit score?
That’s where we are headed if we aren’t careful.
And that’s why my social media contains mostly photos of my pets and nature.
Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.
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