As reported by TechDirt, the Chinese government is now implementing policies that are designed to control its population via heart, mind and, of course, the Internet — where all sorts of ideas about freedom, liberty and democracy are lurking. In authoritarian regimes, rolling out mandatory programs is most often met with little opposition, with the logistics of said programs being the biggest problem.
As TechDirt noted:
“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 [is] in terms of the government’s desires and aims. And its desires aren’t all that honorable.”
As further reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Beijing looks to be incorporating all of the tools of the information age — including electronic purchasing data, algorithmic analysis, social media networks and other mechanisms — in order to construct the ultimate data tool to control its population.
“As one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified,’ ” writes Jay Stanley, the senior policy analyst for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. He says this particular piece will fully explain what China plans, promising that “it will make your head spin.”
If that piece, together with other reports, on what Beijing is planning is accurate, Stanley says the basics of the policy can be outlined as such:
- Citizens are to be measured between scores of 350 and 950. Of course, these scores are linked to their national identities. Though the program is ostensibly “voluntary,” the communist government said it will become mandatory by 2020.
- Just two tech companies — Alibaba and Tencent — will manage the system. The two firms run all social networks in China and therefore have ready access to a vast amount of information about citizens’ ties and activities, as well as what they say online.
- Aside from measuring a person’s ability to pay, like credit score systems in the United States, the Chinese version will also serve as a measure of compliance with the ruling communist party’s political positions. “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,” Stanley writes.
- Not only will your score suffer if you do something against what the ruling class mandates or requires, but also when your friends do something wrong. As Stanley notes, imagine the kind of pressure that creates for mass compliance and against dissent.
- All scores will be freely available online so anyone can access anyone else’s score. This is so that average Chinese citizens could find out which of their friends are hurting their scores (and as usual in such authoritarian regimes, it’s a safe bet that scores for the ruling class will be known only to a select few).
- Another element of scoring that will be factored in are data regarding the purchase of various goods, lifestyles and hobbies. Certain purchases of services and goods (like video games) will lower your score, while others will improve it. Think of this as yet another way for the ruling class to exert its influence.
- Higher scores will be rewarded with tangible benefits. For instance, Stanley writes, citizens who reach scores of 700 will get easy access to a travel permit to nearby Singapore; those who hit scores of 750 will get an even more cherished visa.
“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,” Stanley writes.
That’s because sheep don’t know any better and tend to shuffle along silently, even to slaughter.