China’s Social Credit system, computerized Orwell with a government reputation and trust score

The Chinese government is building an omnipotent “social credit” system that is meant to rate each citizen’s trustworthiness.

By 2020, everyone in China will be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information, including minor traffic violations, and distils it into a single number ranking each citizen.

That system isn’t in place yet. For now, the government is watching how eight Chinese companies issue their own “social credit” scores under state-approved pilot projects.

One of the most high-profile projects is by Sesame Credit, the financial wing of Alibaba. With 400 million users, Alibaba is the world’s biggest online shopping platform. It’s using its unique database of consumer information to compile individual “social credit” scores.

More and more of Baihe’s 90 million clients are displaying their credit scores in their dating profiles, doing away with the idea that a credit score is a private matter.
However, Sesame Credit will not divulge exactly how it calculates its credit scores, explaining that it is a “complex algorithm”.

A lengthy planning document from China’s elite State Council explains that social credit will “forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious”, warning that the “new system will reward those who report acts of breach of trust”.

Here is a translation of the planning outline for China’s social credit system 2014-2020.

A reputation system computes and publishes reputation scores for a set of objects within a community or domain, based on a collection of opinions that other entities hold about the objects. The opinions are typically passed as ratings to a central place where all perceptions, opinions and ratings can be accumulated. A reputation center uses a specific reputation algorithm to dynamically compute the reputation scores based on the received ratings. Reputation is a sign of trustworthiness manifested as testimony by other people.

Fortunately any government reputation system will be far less than the cultural revolution or the One child policy

The Cultural Revolution was launched in May 1966, after Mao alleged that bourgeois elements had infiltrated the government and society at large, aiming to restore capitalism. He insisted that these “revisionists” be removed through violent class struggle. China’s youth responded to Mao’s appeal by forming Red Guard groups around the country. The movement spread into the military, urban workers, and the Communist Party leadership itself. It resulted in widespread factional struggles in all walks of life.

Millions of people were persecuted in the violent struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and seizure of property.

The ‘one-child’ policy has led to what Amartya Sen first called ‘Missing Women’, or the 100 million girls ‘missing’ from the populations of China (and other developing countries) as a result of female infanticide, abandonment, and neglect”

Notable examples of practical reputation applications

Search: web (see PageRank)
eCommerce: eBay, Epinions, Bizrate, Trustpilot
Social news: Reddit, Digg, Imgur
Programming communities: Advogato, freelance marketplaces, Stack Overflow
Wikis: Increase contribution quantity and quality (Dencheva, Prause and Prinz 2011)
Internet Security: TrustedSource
Question-and-Answer sites: Quora, Yahoo! Answers,
Email: anti-spam techniques, reputation lookup (RapLeaf)
Personal Reputation: CouchSurfing (for travelers),
Non Governmental organizations (NGOs):, GlobalGiving
Professional reputation of translators and translation outsourcers: BlueBoard at
All purpose reputation system: Yelp, Inc.
Academia: general bibliometic measures, e.g. the h-index of a researcher.

Gamified Authoritarianism

The ACLU reported that higher scores were to be 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.

USA – pay the fee for faster service and pre-apply for screening

The United States TSA’s airline passenger “whitelist” system could evolve in this direction.

In the private sector, Frank Pasquale notes that elements of its judgment-and-reward system already exist in the U.S. private-sector credit scoring infrastructure.

The US has expedited Visa services. There is a $60 fee for expedited US passports.

You can apply for a trusted traveler program.

Canada and the USA have the NEXUS prescreened traveler program.

Credit scores effect the interest that people pay for cars and houses and credit cards. This has far more financial impact than faster travel Visas.

Many Futurists have talked about Reputation systems replacing currency

In 2004, the Institute for the Future, Marina Gorbis and Jason Tester created the “Reputation Statement of Account,” an “artifact from the future,” a plausible but imagined future object.

SOURCES – Wikipedia, Factcoexist, IFTF, CBP, ACLU, BBC News

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