China has started implementing a new “social credit system” that ranks citizens based on their social interactions—and it’s creepily close to an episode of Black Mirror.
The social system was first announced in 2014 and aims to monitor behavior by reinforcing the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful.”
The program is due to be fully operational by 2020 and is only being tested right now, but millions of people are already feeling it’s effects.
Citizens are scored by city councils or private tech platforms which hold personal data. A person’s social score can go up or down depending on their behavior, like whether they get a speeding fine, are caught smoking in a non-smoking zone, or even buy too many video games.
Infringements are already being issued for those who have had a drop in their ranking or are ranked poorly, with punishments including restricted travel, reduced internet speeds, and prohibited enrollment in private schools.
Beijing News reported last year that 17 people who refused to carry out military service were barred from enrolling in higher education, applying for high school, or continuing their studies under the social credit system. Some were also banned from holidays or hotels.
Jobs are fair game too, with “trust-breaking” individuals under the system denied application to management jobs in state-owned firms and big banks.
However, if you have a good credit score you’ll be rewarded with faster visa application processes, and in some states you can get cheaper bills, rent things without deposits, and receive better interest rates at banks.
These perks were available to people in Rongcheng, eastern China, whose city council rolled out a social credit system for its citizens which included massive discounts for “good” scores.
A “blacklist” is also being trialed, where those with poor social scores are named and shamed, and are losing out on jobs, credit cards and large purchases.
Of course, if you’re on the “good list”, you’ll probably find it easy to get a job, and you also have a better chance of meeting your one true love via dating sites – BBC reported that China’s biggest dating site, Baihe, has started boosting the profiles of “good” scorers.
While the “social sincerity” system is being heavily criticized as creepy and kind of an out-of-control Big Brother – similar in premise to an episode of Black Mirror where everyone was rated on their everyday interactions with people – some Chinese citizens are actually… liking it?
“I feel like in the past six months, people’s behavior has gotten better and better. For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points. At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it.” — Chen, 32-year-old Entrepreneur
Whether it’s successful or not, let’s hope it doesn’t get to Black Mirror‘s “Nosedive” stage, where everyone is fake because all they care about is ratings!