• Mariam Gevorkian

Social media in China: virtual imprisonment or an effective governmental strategy?

President XI quoted in his 2017 Congress Speech” We will be rich, democratic, cultural, harmonious and beautiful”. Yet does a surveillance state which keeps spyware track of 1.4 billion citizens fulfil this hopeful narrative or does it simply pave the way towards a digital dystopian dictatorship?


The Chinese government regulate 1.4 billion citizens via artificial intelligence by keeping track of their online internet usage and also keep records of every move citizens make in real life using spyware technology. There are also plans of a social credit system being launched in collaboration with Tech Giant Ali Baba by 2020.


This system will be powered by sensitive personal data which will be powered by facial recognition and unique digital footprint. Citizens will be entering a society whereby their credit score will impact their ability to travel, buy a home and even eat in certain restaurants. With cameras operating in every public space and keeping records of every move citizens make, supporters of this system insist that this will create a more safe and stable society.

 

However where does this system draw the line? 

The tragic reality that it doesn’t. 


The score of everyone is impacted by every single action they make. Indeed, late mortgage and tax returns payments also taint the credit score. Even specific purchased from supermarkets can result in a loss of points, varying from alcohol (signifying intoxication hence lowering score) to buying tissues (indicating responsibility hence increasing score). However, it doesn’t stop there, the credit score system also slips into marital affairs, as the score of your spouse will also impact your own.


The credit system stirs concerns over the mental impact it will have on citizens however no one credible enough to make changes to the system holds such concerns. The dark side of the social credit system is infused with the agenda to indoctrinate people and form blacklists of people who will be shunned from society if they fall below the average score. 


Alternatively, China is strategically forming a safer society and creating incentives for citizens to abide with the law and act righteous via providing punishments and rewards. Due to strict security it may also be disputed that this system has always existed however in the form of a social credit system it will be more efficient and easier to keep track of.