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The Monday Blog

Let’s talk about the social credit system.

 September 27, 2021

By  Lorhainne Eckhart

Does everyone understand what that is?

Few people do, and I certainly didn’t until a few months ago, when someone first mentioned it to me. Social credit is basically a numeric score assigned to people based on their behavior. You know how credit scores work? Well, this ranking system is stored in a database, which monitors behavior across the country in real time. Pretty scary, isn’t it? People are paid to report on their neighbors, which creates polarization and forces people to conform to socially desired standards by engaging only with people of the same social standing or higher.

Here are some examples of factors considered in calculating someone’s personal score:

· Loitering

· Smoking in no-smoking areas

· Having a messy yard

· Gossiping (how many people would be in trouble for this one?)

· Spending too much time on video games

· Not paying bills on time

· Visiting sick parents when not allowed

· Spreading fake news

· Not stopping in front of crosswalks when driving

· Forgetting to pay a fine

· Saying something unacceptable online

· Buying a certain product that you, personally, are not allowed to own

· Leaving a bad review

· Hanging out with a friend or family member who has a poor social credit score

· Protesting anything (forget it, because that’s not allowed)


Here are some examples for businesses, too:

· Paying taxes on time

· Maintaining necessary licenses

· Fulfilling environmental protection requirements

· Meeting product quality standards

· Meeting requirements specific to the industry

· Complying with anything else deemed necessary


So what happens if you receive a low score because you violated one of these rules? Maybe you stood up and said no, you wouldn’t allow someone to violate your rights, or, worse, you criticized your government. Well, a low score means low trustworthiness. You might suddenly find yourself under a travel ban, or your internet speed might suddenly decrease, or you could lose your job and be unable to find a new one in your industry, or your housing might be taken away, or you might be barred from attending certain schools, or your banking activity could restricted, meaning you would lose access to your money. Your property might be taken from you, or you could be denied the ability to own property at all. You might become a social pariah.

People’s freedoms and choices would suddenly be gone. Your social credit score would be subject to the politically correct but morally bankrupt whims of the powers that be. Imagine going to buy a pizza and finding that the digital system you have to use says, Nope, you were bad and lost a bunch of credits. You can’t eat out, order a pizza, or buy milk or eggs today. Basically, in a digital dictatorship, if you do not fit the mold and behave exactly how the state wants you to behave, you can be punished, and your low social score can be posted publicly for everyone to see. Rights are slowly eroded. In schools, children may be taught a political agenda in the curriculum, and parents’ rights to their children may be stripped. These are the kinds of nightmarish oppressions we read about in dystopian novels.

The social credit system is a totalitarian system that can be used by the state to crush rebellious individuals, even if the rebellion is for good. Businesses can be blacklisted, and people too. The idea is to make everyone comply with government policies and regulations to avoid having a low score, and governments can then use that data to provide grants and loans to businesses that have high scores. The system rewards those who spy and report on their neighbors. Even local governments are rewarded by the social credit system only if they implement and follow orders from the central federal government.

The rewards of having a high score include easier access to loans and jobs, travel perks, and a higher priority when getting bureaucratic paperwork through, basically no red tape—kind of like how it works now for the ultra-powerful and elite. But if you have a high score and associate with someone who has a low score, say a son or daughter who doesn’t toe the line, a dissident who reminds you of the young people who have always stood up to tyranny, you can quickly lose your high score by association and suffer the same punishment inflicted on those with a low score. You may suddenly find yourself cut off from the internet, suffering public humiliation, and being denied access to jobs, loans, and goods and services. This kind of system is meant to divide people. Neighbors spying on neighbors, family turning their backs on family, everyone living in perpetual fear.

The potential scope of a social credit system is enormous. Think about it: Companies could track your activities and give you corporate rewards for your compliant behavior, just like credit cards do with rewards benefits. But in a social credit system, you could suddenly be blocked from making a transaction, or a surcharge might suddenly be added, or you could be completely unable to purchase food, goods, or anything. Think of those who exercise their free speech, question vaccine side effects, or advocate for their rights and their children’s rights. All of this could suddenly make you a target. Your debit card could get cancelled over tweets you make, or your home loan could be denied because you pulled your kids from school, or your PayPal or eBay account might suddenly be invalid because a friend flagged you for posting something that questions whether your government is lying to you.

Sometimes I read books and wonder where authors come up with this kind of stuff, the stuff nightmares are made of. It’s definitely not the world I want for my kids or myself. For example, in a country like the one I’ve described above, someone who holds conservative Christian values or voices his or her opinion on political, social, and religious topics might suddenly fall into the negative numbers for a social credit score. Can you imagine if something like this suddenly showed up on the horizon in your once free country?

In Canada, we have the Charter of Rights, as I talked about in my last blog. In America, you have the First Amendment, which says you have the freedom of speech, and the Fourth Amendment, which says you have the right to privacy. But what happens when backroom legislation and executive orders are issued to override these? That’s one of the most dangerous possibilities in a free country. You know where the social credit system does exist? In China, where the threat is real, where they have hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras using facial recognition software to perform surveillance on their citizens. And who is in control? Well, the system is, and it’s based on complex algorithms evaluating various kinds of data streams to assess position. The issue with online ranking systems is that their algorithms have been artificially designed. How they work is unknown to the public. A lack of transparency makes it hard to know who designed these systems and how they’re being used, and algorithms can easily be manipulated.

But it would never happen here, right? Not in a free country, where a government respects the rights of its citizens? The frightening thing is that my blog would not be allowed in a social credit system.

Remember the many wars our grandfathers fought? Mine fought in the First and Second World Wars, and my great, great, great grandfather fought in the Civil War, as well. All these wars were for our freedom.

Learn more about the social credit system here.

A social credit system. Can you imagine being unable to be yourself, terrified to even love people anymore? As several have said as of late, this is the one inch we must not yield.


Coming this Week!

The Children

The Children

She picked up the wrong file, and now everything is falling apart.

 

 

From New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart comes a new Billy Jo McCabe mystery set on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. When social worker Billy Jo McCabe accidentally picks up the wrong file, she discovers a shocking, twisted mystery plotted by a high-ranking social worker in the DCFS.

 

When Billy Jo McCabe accidentally picks up the wrong file, before she realizes her mistake, she discovers a secret no one was supposed to find.

She takes the file to the newly appointed chief of police, Mark Friessen, but he doesn’t believe her—that is, until they discover dozens more files and missing money from vulnerable at-risk children who have aged out of the system and are living on the streets.

As she digs into the files, the system, and the people involved, everything falls apart.

And what Mark and Billy Jo discover is a secret far more shocking than missing money.

More info →
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