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Josh Owens

Josh Owens

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Josh majored in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh and is currently the Content Director at Oilprice.com. Josh has over 6 years of writing…

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China's Orwellian Social Media Machine

Tech

The individuals that make up a society are often their own worst enemies, and social media networks are the weapons that they use against themselves. Nowhere is this more true than in China, where the government is developing a system that will give every citizen a ‘social credit score’ or 'trustworthiness' score based on their social media accounts.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley themselves couldn’t have come up with a more sinister way to harness the data power of social media; and just like in 1984 or Brave New World, it seems no one will realize the scale of what’s happening until it’s too big a beast to bring down.

China has been working on a “social credit score” system that is similar to a financial credit score but based on character and concocted from big data and artificial intelligence algorithms. If you’re an upstanding citizen, you’ll have a high score. But beware the definition of ‘upstanding citizen’.

The proposed social credit score system is unambiguously entitled “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”, and it will “forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility”.

In other, less fluffy sounding words, it will marginalize and ostracize anyone who doesn’t have a high score; and sincerity won’t be real—it will be social media-style alter egos of the sort the new Big Brother wants to hear. Stalin would have loved it. Related: Crypto Stocks Poised To Bounce Back

We’re not just talking about whether you’ve been chatting on social media about politics, either. The algorithms are intended to pick apart who your friends are and how trustworthy those friendship choices render you. Even ‘following’ the wrong person could negatively affect your social credit standing—and this rabbit hole is deep because if you’re following someone who is following someone … and so on … who is on some sort of a block list, they you degrade your status.

China’s social credit score system will become mandatory for all by 2020, and commercial versions are already being used, with the top social credit scorers offering a line-up of perks by tech and e-commerce giants such as Alibaba through “Sesame Credit”.

According to the New Republic, on Sesame Credit, you can see your social credit score downgraded for doing things like browsing late at night when ‘decent’ citizens are fast asleep. And if you’ve got any civil suits as baggage, you could be labeled a ‘deadbeat’.

Social media is the most brilliant tool for controlling China’s 1.4 billion people. In terms of weaponry, nuclear doesn’t even come close to this.

And governments the world over can weaponize without lifting a finger, except to harvest the data everyone is so freely giving.

If the Facebook scandal wasn’t enough to convince Americans that they’re giving up too much and it’s bound to be abused, perhaps the next such data scandal will—but by then it may be too late, if it’s not already.

The only way to fight the emerging algorithmic society is to disengage.

Will anyone? So far, the numbers aren’t lining up in favor of a free society.

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Many have threatened to abandon Facebook, but there’s been no real exodus, and global social media user numbers continue to grow.

This is Statista’s chart for the number of social network users worldwide from 2010 to the present, with projections to 2021—in billions.

(Click to enlarge)

As such, China’s design for how to control 1.4 billion people becomes the world’s design for how to control 3.02 billion.

By Josh Owens for Safehaven.com

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