Reputation Economy Dystopia: China's new "Citizen Scores" will rate every person in the country

The Chinese government has announced a new universal reputation score, tied to every person in the country's nation ID number and based on such factors as political compliance, hobbies, shopping, and whether you play videogames.

It's a perfect storm of terrible: the program will be administered by Alibaba (China's answer to Amazon) and Tencent (the country's huge, government-compliant social network). Your score will be generated not only by your activities, but by the activities of the friends in your social graph -- the people you identify as friends on social media. Your score will be decremented for doing things like mentioning Tienanmen Square or speculating on official corruption, or for participating in activities that the state wishes to "nudge" you away from, like playing video-games.

All scores are public to everyone, and high-scoring individuals will get privileges denied to their less fortunate peers, such as permits to visit (or live) in Singapore (you can't make this shit up).

Already, some Chinese people are embracing their scores as bragworthy.

Paternalism, surveillance, social control, guilt by association, paternalistic application of behavioral economics and ideology-driven shunning and isolation -- it's like someone took all my novels and blended them together, and turned them into policy (with Chinese characteristics).

* Everybody is measured by a score between 350 and 950, which is linked to their national identity card. While currently supposedly voluntary, the government has announced that it will be mandatory by 2020.

* The system is run by two companies, Alibaba and Tencent, which run all the social networks in China and therefore have access to a vast amount of data about people’s social ties and activities and what they say.

* In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. 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 Tienanmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse.

* It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them. Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create. Anybody can check anyone else’s score online. Among other things, this lets people find out which of their friends may be hurting their scores.

* Also used to calculate scores is information about hobbies, lifestyle, and shopping. Buying certain goods will improve your score, while others (such as video games) will lower it.

* Those with higher scores are rewarded with concrete benefits. Those who reach 700, for example, get easy access to a Singapore travel permit, while those who hit 750 get an even more valued 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.

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans [Jay Stanley/ACLU]

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