Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: China's Freedom-Crushing 'Social Credit Score'

Americans should be wary of something similar.

In America, tech giants know a lot about us. John Stossel says that's fine with him. He knows what information he's handing over and he does it voluntarily. But he says we should worry about becoming like China, where the government is starting to use online data to create 1984 in the real world.

China's government has announced that they'll assign a mandatory government "social credit score" to everyone in the country by 2020. It will be based largely on what you do online. Say something that gets censored, you lose points. Same if you watch porn, or are late in returning a rented bike, or buy lots of alcohol.

China's government boasts that the social credit system will "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step."

"It is a big deal," says Li Schoolland, a Chinese-American libertarian activist who works with Chinese supporters of freedom.

The social credit system, she says, will expand to the whole country what China already does to some government critics. Some of them are jailed. Some are never heard from again.

The government will expand the use of lesser punishments under the new program.

Schoolland explained to Stossel what will happen to people with low scores: "First [you lose] your job, or you never get promoted...and your children cannot get into good schools."

The American government doesn't do anything like that, yet, but Stossel wonders about the future. Police in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and other cities already practice "predictive policing." The tech company Palantir analyzes social media and phone location records, tracks people's ties to gang members, and predicts the likelihood that someone will commit a crime.

Still, Stossel says, he's glad to be in America, where he can criticize the government on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

He's never been punished for that.

So far.

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  • sarcasmic||

    A progressive dream come true.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Nancy Pelosi: "We need something like that! And if your score gets too low, we'll punish you by sending you to mow the grass down on the border. Who says big government can't be efficient?"

  • Agammamon||

    . . . sending you to mow the grass down on the border.

    There is no grass on the border - so that will be our new euphemism for 'labor camp death sentence'.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Nancy Pelosi: "Enough with the grasssplaining!"

  • gaoxiaen||

    Oh, grass, dirt, horse.

  • StackOfCoins||

    Pretty sure this was EXACTLY the plot of an episode of Black Mirror.

  • timbo||

    Hardly any different that the SJW attempt to suppress speech that the herd does not like.

    If is all an attempt to shame everyone into the collective.

    We aren't China but we are laying the tracks in that direction in many ways.

    When you get down to some of the scariest aspects of government, this is what the founding fathers meant by the 2nd amendment.

  • Texasmotiv||

    China's "blue check mark" system.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    All you miscreants up in Hit'n'Run best stay the hell out the PRC.

  • delios||

    Wow, Seth McFarland did this on The Orville this past season episode 7 "Majority Rule". China must have been watching this and thought it was a good idea.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Yep I saw that too. Good episode haha.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    TOP MEN come thru again!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    What's next? rating our interactions with people?

    See "Black Mirror" episode Nose Dive.

  • timbo||

    This is why China has always been the 1000 year growth story. Everyone always says China will be the lead economy and they will be the world leaders. "China's next."

    Not a safe bet. Marxism always fails and what they will assuredly do is undermine the tremendous success they have had for the last 30 years allowing some capitalism to thrive.

    This is why China will always be a dysfunctional second to the US economy. Look at what they have done to dismantle Hong Kong's growth story.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Fear not, citizen. The Chinese government's Trust Score is OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!!!

  • DJF||

    Stop picking on the Free Market!!!!

    The Chinese Communist Party is the largest owner of corporations in the world and corporations = Free Market.

    Or at least that is what many at Reason Com seem to think

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    So those would be state owned, right?

  • Sevo||

    BEAT that strawman, DJF! We need a better class of trolls.

  • JoeBlow123||

    What exactly did he say that was wrong? I will add to it.

    The CCP, through their state owned enterprises, sell market access (or the prospect of it) to a billion Chinese people to Western corporations as long as they:

    1) Transfer technology
    2) Make things in China
    3) Kiss the ring, do not criticize China (see Daimler Mercedes apologizing for using a quote from the Dali Lama in an add)

    This is not free market behavior. But hey, lets keep pretending long term blackmail that enriches a country antithetical to all of our ideals is good for the USA.

  • Just Say'n||

    Thankfully, it can't happen here.

    So long as the reeducation camps are private, I see nothing wrong with it

  • JoeBlow123||

    Thanks for the link. Interesting read.

    I would like to say some of it is editorializing, but I find it likely to believe people do these kinds of things willingly. Most of the people who make choices in the media or electronics seem to be left leaning so it would not terribly surprise me.

  • Rhywun||

    He's never been punished for that.

    So far.

    It is 100% inevitable that this will happen in America and probably sooner rather than later. If the technology is there, it will be used. It won't be nationalized like in China but it will happen in cities like NY and SF, count on it.

  • psCargile||

    Ah, a new crime of forging/hacking social credit is sure to follow.

  • JWatts||

    "The social credit system, she says, will expand to the whole country what China already does to some government critics. Some of them are jailed. Some are never heard from again."

    I've heard this charge repeatedly. It gets very little emphasis in the news and I never read a story where a reporter has debunked it.

    Maybe it's just urban legend, but I think there's pretty good evidence it happened under the Communists up until the 1980's. Did it stop? Or did the Communist government get better about ensuring it doesn't get reported?

  • ||

    It's what last century teaches us, the "communist" regimes can do whatever they want.

  • ||

    Who would do the reporting? Pravda? When your neighbor disappears you keep your mouth shut.

  • sarcasmic||

    Not sure what program I was watching, probably some travelling cook like Bourdain or Ramsey, but they were in China and talking with some people who would rather not be named. They were talking about how the cops routinely execute people. Just disappear them. Or lock them up in some dank box for a period of time. They don't bother with courts. All the cops are Judge Dredd.

    Whether that was true or not I have no idea.

  • AcademicRealist||

    There appears to be some significant evidence that large numbers (hundreds of thousands) of members of Falun Gung (a/k/a Falun Dafa), a quasi-religious set of practices/beliefs, have not only been "disappeared", but that their organs have been systematically used for transplant.

  • silver.||

    This is only tangentially related, but I was reminded about how mentioning Tiananmen Square in China can get you .. disciplined. Officially, it simply didn't happen. If tourists go to the square, plainclothes police prevent them from making a scene or talking about it. This documentary has some absolutely amazing, rare footage of the protests and escalation to violence. The narrator is very repetitive, but I think it's because he feels the need to keep talking while playing the large amount of video footage. It's very graphic (possibly 5,000-10,000 unarmed civilians died and 50,000 more were injured) but incredibly interesting. Information about the massacre is sparse even outside of China, so I have no idea where this guy got it all.

    I should really share it more. I wish the video quality was better and the narrator more varied, but it's a worthwhile watch just because of the footage.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Everyone has wanted China to embrace democracy so badly like they had embraced capitalism (or some form of it) that they were treated with kids gloves. A growing economy and one billion consumes helped too. In any event, people in power looked at China as an opportunity for both money and long term friendship. So their hiccups were explained away or flat out ignored, like people disappearing or their blatant totalitarianism.

    I firmly believe our leaders really screwed the pooch on this. They have and continue to mischaracterize the CCP because, frankly, the CCP has done a fantastic job at spin control, control of a narrative of a "peaceful rise," slowly heating the water so no one notices it is boiling, until it is too late and everyone has to finally recognize they have slowly watched a monster morph into creation.

    One thing I will give credit to Obama for is I 100% think he recognized this, the whole shift to the Pacific and TPP. He just had such a mess domestically that it was impossible to deal with this then we had Comrade Sanders and Crazy Ass Trump talk a bunch of mess on TPP so we caved.

  • Ron||

    A teacher in Rocklin Ca has been put on leave for discussing the anti-gun walk out compared to right to life march.How about the man who was fired from Google for having a conservative opinion. there are several well documented cases, I'd say the social credit score is alive and well in America

  • EscherEnigma||

    Two thoughts.


    In America, tech giants know a lot about us. John Stossel says that's fine with him. He knows what information he's handing over and he does it voluntarily.

    Ha ha ha. No, he doesn't. He might know some of the information he "hands over", and do that part voluntarily, but there's a mess of stuff that gets collected about him by private industry that he doesn't realize they're collecting. Thinking that you're fully informed and consenting to everything that private industry collects on you is terribly naïve.

    Second-up, I don't want to sound like I approve of China's program, but the big difference sounds (to me) like they're formalizing and centralizing it, not that they're creating it. Right now, in America, you have to do a little bit of digging to find out all the dirt on someone, and there's no simple number that summarizes a person's "social credit", but the overall idea, that folks can look up who you are and what you've done, and in short order get a notion of your "social credit" to make a decision on, isn't new.

    We've already got social credit. But just like actual credit, it's not scored by the government. Just monolithic entities you never consented to collect and collate your information, that answer to no one, and will never stop.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Ha ha ha. No, he doesn't. He might know some of the information he "hands over", and do that part voluntarily, but there's a mess of stuff that gets collected about him by private industry that he doesn't realize they're collecting.""


  • Rhywun||

    Agree. The question is what is done with it. If all it does is feed you ads, who cares. If it puts you in jail... that's Not OK.

  • John||

    What if it ruins your credit score for having unapproved views? Or lets potential employers judge you based on your politics?

  • Rhywun||

    The latter is not an issue - they already do that. Or at least should be able to.

    The former is a concern. I can see the government telling the credit agencies exactly how to calculate their scores.

  • John||

    If employers start judging people on their politics and not their merits, we are going to get a lot poorer. The reason why tribal societies are so fucked up and poor is that you can't hire based on merit in tribal societies. I have to hire the deadbeat cousin or whoever from my tribe instead of someone from the other tribe no matter how competent. Worse still, one tribe gets ahead and everyone in it knows that they are getting ahead no matter how stupid and lazy they are. So, the chances of my getting a good employee become pretty small.

    A society obsessed with politics or full of enough assholes who have infiltrated large organizations who are becomes just another tribal society. And everyone suffers for it. This is why retards like Vox Day who think that the solution to the SJW s is to just become your own tribe and be just as big of a tribal asshole as they are are well retards. Tribalism and politics are nothing but a ticket to poverty and ignorance. This country got rich because we were willing to set all that shit aside and deal with whoever made us the most money. Hiring based on politics is a direct and mortal threat to that.

  • EscherEnigma||

    If we start? When did we stop? Even if you ignore all the racial, religious and sexist discrimination, and stick purely to discrimination based on explicit politics, George Washington beat you to complaining about the dangers of "tribalism" as you call it by over two hundred years.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Right now it's easy enough to stay the hell away from FB; that's just giving away your attributes and associations that most certainly are held against you. I do not doubt however that the data mining is already transcending this and will bite us all in the ass sooner than later. And private employers like Google and even school systems can pretty much do whatever they want in the name of at will, as long as they skirt overt racial [any but caucasian] and gender [female or trans] discrimination.

  • EscherEnigma||

    People like to rag on Facebook, but it's really just the most recent player. You had big box stores sending out targeted advertisements for baby goods because they somehow deduced that someone was pregnant back before the internet was a thing. The internet and social media just make it easier.

  • silver.||

    I heard a story about Target sending a catalog of some sort to a pregnant teenager's house because she'd bought something correlated with pregnancy on her Target credit card. No idea if it's true, but I believe it.

    Now with trackers, particularly Facebook Pixel, all the different companies can very easily communicate to build a more comprehensive profile. Creepy af

  • mtrueman||

    But at least we know who those who score our credit are, and they are held accountable for their actions in the market place.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Next on "What's Trump Going To Say Now":

    "And I asked them, 'Do you have a social credit problem?' and these leaders say to me 'no, we don't have a social credit problem'. And I find that amazing. Amazing. So I ask them 'Really?' 'Yes, really, we don't have a social credit problem'. 'How do you do it?' I ask them. 'Well, we execute people of low social credit scores'. See? They know how to take care of those things."

  • John||

    Understand SJW Progs are relentless about infiltrating large organizations. And they already have fully infiltrated and control the big tech firms. How long before someone comes up with an algorithm that does a "whole life" evaluation for your credit score? You just take the information available from Facebook and Google and figure out some correlations between certain behaviors and tastes and a person's credit worthiness. Then Google and Facebook sell their information to the banks and credit score companies as part of this new way to evaluate credit. The SJWs who have infiltrated these companies then ensure that engaging in things like "hate speech" or going to unapproved websites or sharing 'fake news" or owning a gun and so forth kill your credit score. And since everything in modern life from renting an apartment to even being employed is controlled by your credit score these days, anyone who deviates from the approved ideology is punished by losing their job and ability to function in society as surely as they would have been had they been a dissident in the old communist block.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Tyler Cowen [The End of Mediocrity] predicts something along the lines of a Yelp score that will gauge how much opportunity everyone will have in the not too distant future. Not surprisingly, he asserts than only about 15% will have meaningful work, while the rest will get the dregs and or be on the dole.

  • John||

    I think Cowen is full of shit. To believe these arguments, you have to believe that we have hit the end of scarcity. That robots are going to be so good and so conspicuous that humans will no longer want for anything. You also have to believe that unlike every other industrial revolution in history, the people displaced by them will not be able to dream up something different to do for a living.

    Sorry, but I call shenanigans on that. If nothing else, the human desire for positional goods will forever keep robots from doing everything. If the poorest person can afford to have a robot vacuum their house, then the rich person will want a servant to do it to show the world how wealthy they are. If the poor person has a robot lawyer, the rich person will want a human lawyer for the same reasons.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Not a fan of him either, but what China is doing certainly segues with that aspect of his [and your] musings. .

  • John||

    Yes. And the authoritarians here are having wet dreams about the possibility.

  • sarcasmic||

    Someone from a century ago would believe that today we live in a post-scarcity world.

  • mtrueman||

    "approved ideology is punished by losing their job and ability to function in society as surely as they would have been had they been a dissident in the old communist block."

    Americans are still free. But freedom isn't free. If you are wealthy enough, a poor credit score shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Doesn't Facebook provide America's Social Credit Score?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Still, Stossel says, he's glad to be in America, where he can criticize the government on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook"

    As long as Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook happen not to like the government. Let somebody get into the White house who they like, and see what happens.

  • Juice||

    I wouldn't do it like China, but I think some form of a "credit" score would be a great replacement for fines and jail time for failure to pay taxes, fill out paperwork, or obtain permission/license, or even failure to obey the speed limit. It wouldn't be mandatory, of course. It would simply be a score that people could consider or ignore if they choose, akin to current credit ratings. For instance, if your business doesn't collect a sales tax and that substantially affects your score, maybe most banks wouldn't think of you as creditworthy. Or maybe you defiantly continue to operate your business without permission from the state and as a result you get a bad rating. Maybe it makes your life more difficult, or maybe it doesn't. It all depends on how much stock others put into the rating. Now the legitimacy of the license or whatever isn't dependent on the amount of force the state can exert. It's only dependent on whether enough people care about your rating or not and whether that's enough to change your behavior. What already happens for many jurisdictions with speeding tickets (caught by camera) is if you don't pay the ticket, it goes to a collections company who then reports it to credit agencies. It can really harm your credit. You don't have a warrant for your arrest, nothing like that. It just hurts your credit rating. Maybe you don't give a shit, but most people do. If it's at all coercive, it's not a threat of violence, and that's a step in the right direction.

  • JoeBlow123||

    How exactly do you see what you propose as not coercive? So people are to walk around with a scarlet letter, in an even more explicit way than we already do now, for the rest of their lives?

    Of course the government is to regulate this.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I'm sure Thomas Friedman approves.

  • Heraclitus||

    Getting a kick out of how all the folks in this comment section think only progressives are to fear. Such hubris. This is something we should guard against from all political persuasions. The urge to control people is not limited to one political party or one political ideology. The Republicans want to pee test welfare recipients. How far off is that from a social credit score? Your pee folks. And that's pretty standard stuff on the right these days. And good luck getting a loan if you don't submit to the credit score system. It's not a huge leap to start adding social credit to that system. And your current president partners with Cambridge Analytica to delve into your personality via big data. Do you really trust that he would wall off that data in the future and restrict it to mere campaign efforts?

    This is the existential dilemma of the time. Big data and information warfare. And it is not just the government we need to fear. Large companies like Facebook, Visa, Experian, and Google essentially hold massive weapons in their hands. If the government is ever going to abuse their powers you can bet it will be in partnership with private industry.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "The urge to control people is not limited to one political party or one political ideology."

    The issue is, I believe, that the people with the levers on most of the information outlets (media, social media, news, Silicon Valley) are left leaning. So this is the worry that they either intentionally or unintentionally bias their work in favor of one group. I do not see any reason to think this is not valid, I personally would not promote content I was not comfortable with and I do not expect most people would either if they had control of a platform that corrals speech. Seems like human nature.

  • bvandyke||

    For all the "that was in..." comments - check out the Psycho-pass movie. It is English dubbed for those that don't want to read. Took this idea to next level.

    Sadly we have a lot of people in this country that think this would be a great idea.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Putting the "total" in totalitarian

    Have they brought back struggle sessions yet?

  • Echospinner||

    Brilliant move by the Chinese government. Think of the fortune in bribes to be made. In under the radar booze and porn alone there is a whole new economy there. Then the price to have your social score "fixed", extortion, blackmail, the possibilities are endless.

  • Art Gecko||

    Someone in China has been watching "Black Mirror."

  • Shoreline1||

    China learned that from us, we've been doing it for decades. Americans really don't see themselves as they really are, don't realize they are victims of it.

  • LongJohn||

    Wow. Thank God for SCOTUS appointees like Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.

  • Julia Summer||

    Hello! This article reminds me of 1984 by J. Orwell. Although we are now living in a democratic society and have enough freedom, it's scary to know that there are countries like China where government is trying to take full control over the population. I wouldn't want to live in such a country and have a social credit score. I know what credit score I have and that I can take small loans immediately if it is good enough, or that I need to improve my score in case I'm in need of a larger sum of money.


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