I recently came across a new social network/“game” in China known as Sesame Credit (not to be confused with Credit Sesame). There’s a very good Extra Credits video about it, but the gist is that it’s a social networking site owned by two of the largest retailers in China, affiliated with the Chinese Government.
Okay, so it’s government run Facebook, whatever. But here’s the kicker: it gives you a score on how good of a citizen you are. Since two of the largest retailers own it, it can pull info from your online purchases. Buy things the state likes, score goes up, buy things it doesn’t like, score goes down. The same for sharing things on that site. Share things the state doesn’t want you talking about? Bad score. Say everything is fine and nothing will ever be wrong in China? Score goes up. (This is a tad reductive, but is the general gist)
As the video I linked notes, the worst part is that your score is also weighted by the scores of all of your friends. A perfect tool for social ostracization. Want to criticize the government? Fine. Don’t care about your score? Fine. But you’ll be hurting your friends too, and hey, they might cut you off to save their own score.
This system is opt-in right now, but is scheduled to be mandatory by 2020. Having a good score has real effects, it can make it easier to get loans or travel paperwork completed. And they’re thinking of imposing penalties on low score-havers after the mandatory system begins.
Does anybody have any more information than this? I’m kind of in shock, because this is basically every dystopian sci-fi novel and movie ever written. Hell, this is basically an episode of Black Mirror. This is the worst of McCarthyism, some of the most heinous parts of Nazi and East Germany, and the USSR, all presented with a smile and a cute little number congratulating you for being morally pure. I know it’s probably an understatement to say that China was never going to win any “least Authoritarian government” awards, but this is an entire extra level.