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Chinese citizens with poor ‘social credit rating’ to be barred from public transport

THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT will implement the latest phase of its Black Mirror-esque Social Credit System on 1 May, which will see citizens who have a poor social-credit rating barred from planes and trains.

China’s Social Credit System is coordinated by the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms. It mashes together information gleaned from a wide variety of sources in order to give every citizen a social-credit rating.

This includes data from the country’s social insurance database and the criminal records system, as well as information gleaned online. It is intended to penalise not just citizens who have failed to pay fines or taxes, for example, but also people the government deems guilty of ‘spreading false information’ and ‘causing trouble’.

While the full system hasn’t been rolled out yet, several regional pilot programs have been run. In those pilots, more than nine million Chinese people have already been barred from air transport, and three million stopped from buying high-speed train tickets, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

It has also been used to deny loans and other forms of government support to more than 6,000 business blacklisted by the government.

The system is expected to be fully implemented by 2020.

It comes as China’s government has led a concerted push to remove internet anonymity from mobile phone and social networks so that anyone online can be identified online at all times by the authorities. This is in addition to the country’s firewall, which restricts access to websites outside of China that its government doesn’t want Chinese citizens to see and use.

Blocked websites include search engines, foreign media and social media websites outside of the Chinese government’s control.

Related: Chinese gov ‘bans’ security researchers from attending foreign conferences

The Chinese government’s Social Credit System has been mirrored in the private sector as well, with Sesame Credit, an affiliate of Alibaba’s Alipay subsidiary, controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, providing loans based on social credit ratings for a number of years already.

It lends money based not just on an individual’s credit history, but also their buying habits and online social circles, and encourages users to flaunt their credit score publicly.

That credit score is also shared with Baihe, one of China’s biggest online dating services, which promotes subscribers with good social credit scores with Sesame to prominent spots on its website.

China’s government hopes that by adopting a combination of punishment and reward it can keep its people in-line – and the Communist Party of China in power indefinitely. µ

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