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Silicon Valley Building a Social Credit System – Outside the Law

China’s social credit system is a technology-enabled, surveillance program designed to nudge citizens toward better behavior.

[Tweet “The goal is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step according to the Chinese government”]

In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress. It may, by 2020, become a nationwide point system like a financial credit score.

It aims to punish for transgressions that can include 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.

Beijing maintains two nationwide lists – the blacklist and the red list. Thew blacklist is people who have transgressed, and the latter is the Chinese version of a whitelist, people who have stayed out of trouble.

The lists are publicly searchable on a government website.


Westerners are disturbed by China’s social credit system, even as 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.

Airbnb now has more than 6 million listings in its system. That’s why a ban from Airbnb can limit travel options.

Airbnb can disable your account for life for any reason, and need not tell you why.

The company’s canned message includes the assertion that “This decision is irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account.”

The most disturbing attribute of a social credit system is that it’s extralegal. Crimes are punished outside the legal system, which means no presumption of innocence, no legal representation, no judge, no jury, and often no appeal.

In other words, it’s an alternative legal system where the accused have even fewer rights.

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Silicon Valley Building a Social Credit System – Outside the Law

by Sonia Landry time to read: 2 min