By Allum Bokhari
Fast Company has caught on to what Breitbart News has been highlighting for some time: that the Big Tech Masters of the Universe are developing systems to monitor and regulate personal behavior that closely resemble China’s totalitarian “social credit” system.
The “social credit” system assigns all Chinese citizens a “social credit score.” A citizen’s score drops if he engages in a range of disfavored activities, ranging from littering to supporting political dissidents.
Citizens whose score drops low enough can find themselves subject to strict punishment, including bans from the use of public transport, exclusion from top jobs, and prohibitions on their children attending top-rated schools.
This may sound alien and Orwellian, but as Fast Company notes, Silicon Valley is bringing a version of this grim reality to America.
Many Westerners are disturbed by what they read about China’s social credit system. But such systems, it turns out, are not unique to China. A parallel system is developing in the United States, in part as the result of Silicon Valley and technology-industry user policies, and in part by surveillance of social media activity by private companies.
The articles goes on to note a range of ways in which western citizens are being systematically rated, and in some cases excluded, by corporate America. These include insurance companies scanning the social media feeds of applicants, an app called “PatronScan,” that logs the face and name of troublesome bar and restaurant clientele, and the growing tendency of services like Airbnb, Uber, and WhatsApp to ban users for arbitrary reasons.
The comparison to China’s social credit system is similar to the one this reporter made on Breitbart News Daily in June:
In China, they have what’s called a “social credit system” — in which, if you engage in behavior that the regime doesn’t like, they’ll assign you a score, and when it drops below a certain point, they’ll exclude you from certain basic services, like transportation, they might not let your kids go to good schools — all sorts of basic services, they’ll cut you off from.
We have a corporate version of this already evolving. So if you don’t do the things that Facebook approves of, they’re going to cut you off from their platform, which is now essential for maintaining a social network, building a business, running for office. We rely on Facebook and other social media platforms for so many things. Uber and Lyft will also ban you now — they’ve started to ban people for political viewpoints, so you think China is the only one that’s going to cut you off from transportation for having the wrong opinions — well, Western corporations are now doing that, too. Airbnb, Amazon, they’re all doing it.
One other comparison from the Fast Company article deserves note — the Chinese communist government’s partnership with tech platforms like Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Far from aiding dissidents, Chinese social media companies like Weibo and WeChat aid and abet the government in the persecution of its citizens.
That too, has eerie parallels with the West, where social media platforms have become a means of extra-judicial censorship for politicians. Because America has the First Amendment, politicians can’t pass laws suppressing speech or punishing dissidents against the established order — but they can, and frequently do, bully tech companies into doing their dirty work for them.