Remember that episode of Black Mirror that kicked off season 3 – the bit where the main character, Lacie Pound, can’t get a standby seat for a replacement flight because her social credit score is just below 4.2?
That’s the beginning of a series of unfortunate events (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) as Lacie tries desperately to get to her friend’s wedding to schmooze with the high-ranking folks in attendance who can raise her score to the hallowed heights of 4.5.
It turns out that 4.9 million people in China are now in a similar situation after the nation’s controversial Social Credit System barred them from flights as punishment for very poor credit from outstanding debts. In addition, 1.65 million cannot take trains – ticket purchases require identification – due to their credit defaults, the China News Service reported today.
In a related development, China’s top online shopping company, Alibaba, has “restricted 511,000 discredited consumers’ overdrawing behavior” on the company’s online loans service, says the news agency.
“It’s incredibly sinister,” said Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker last month in reference to the Chinese scoring system, which was first outlined in detail last year.
“Am I right in thinking that your ranking is affected by your friends, so if you hang with the wrong crowd, your social ranking will go down? Wow. It’s completely mental.”
In reality, China’s system is not as transparent – and possibly even more sinister – than the one in Black Mirror, giving corporations control over people’s freedom of movement. It might even monitor one’s social media for dissenting opinions. The system will eventually cover “administrative affairs, commercial activities, social behaviors, and the judicial system,” said state news agency Xinhua.
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