Chinese Credit Scoring System Smacks Of Censorship

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Steve Ambrose Contributor
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The ACLU is sounding the alarm over China implementing a comprehensive credit rating system that can be negatively impacted by behavior like playing video games and expressing the wrong political opinion.

It’s being called a social credit system and it is electronically linked to the national identification card of every Chinese citizen.

Rogier Creemers, a China-specialist with Oxford University, told ComputerWorld, “With the help of the latest internet technologies the government wants to exercise individual surveillance. Government and big internet companies in China can exploit ‘Big Data’ together in a way that is unimaginable in the West.”

On an Oct. 5 blog post Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU, wrote by 2020 it will be mandated that every Chinese citizen be scored on a social scale between 350 and 950. The app that helps citizens keep track of their score is called “Sesame Credit.”


The social credit system analyzes data from the social media postings of Chinese citizens. This monitoring process is simplified because all social media networks in China are run by only two businesses, Alibaba and Tencent. Both of the companies are also in charge of the social credit system.

One of the criteria that affects a credit score is unpopular political opinions. What you buy is also factored into the social score. For instance, buying an Xbox or other video games is a penalty. Hobbies and lifestyles can also impact scores.

What adds to the harshness of the system is that the behavior of one’s friends can adversely affect the scores of both individuals.

Those with high scores have been deemed by the government worthy of a reward.

The reward for reaching a score of 600 is an instant loan for up to $800. Reach 700 and an easily acquired Singapore travel permit can be had.

Those on the lower end of the scale, in addition to a poor credit score, can be punished. One such punishment is the government throttling an Internet connection.

Stanley wrote in the blog, “In today’s world, all the tools are in place to allow a government to [silence dissent] in stunningly subtle yet powerful ways, and the Chinese government appears to be wasting no time in exploiting that potential to the fullest. With this Chinese system, a whole range of things we’ve warned about are no longer theoretical.”

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