The new “war on terror”, launched by the January 6 riot, has prompted several web giants to expose the predecessors of what could effectively become a soft social credit system by the end of this decade. Relying on an indirect hand from DC, our social bettors in corporate America will attempt to force the most profound changes our society has seen in the Internet age.
China’s social credit system is a combination of government and business surveillance that gives citizens a “score” that can restrict the ability of individuals to take action – such as buying plane tickets, acquiring property, or taking out loans – because of behaviors. Considering the position of several large American companies, a similar system could be coming here sooner than you think.
Last week, PayPal announced a partnership with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to “investigate” the role of “white supremacists” and propagators of “anti-government” rhetoric, subjective labels that could potentially impact a large number of groups or people. using their service. PayPal says the information collected will be shared with other financial companies and politicians. Facebook is taking similar action, recently introducing posts that ask users to report their potentially “extremist” friends, which, given the platform’s bias, appears to primarily target the political right. At the same time, Facebook and Microsoft are working with several other web giants and the United Nations on a database to block potential extremist content.
The actions of these large corporations may seem logical in an internet rife with scams and delinquency. After all, no one will stand up for far-right militias or white supremacist groups using these platforms for their heinous purposes. However, the same problem with government censorship exists with corporate censorship: if there is a limit, who draws it? Will the distinction between mundane politics and extremism be an “I’ll know it when I see it” scenario, as former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described the obscenity? If so, will there be individuals capable of unilaterally removing people’s effective ability to use the Internet? Could a Facebook employee equate Ben Shapiro with David Duke and delete his account?
The implications of these crackdowns will be far broader than the simple ban. Donald trumpDonald TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by Facebook – White House, Democrats play a blame game on evictions tweeting at 3 a.m. Young people cannot function effectively in society if they cannot use Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Uber, Amazon, PayPal, Venmo, and other financial transaction systems. Some banking platforms have already announced the ban on certain legal purchases, such as firearms. The growth of such restrictions, which will only accelerate with the support of (usually) left-wing politicians, could create a system in which individuals who lack certain political views may be excluded from polite society and unable to win their life.
The potential reach of the social credit system under construction is enormous. The same companies that can track your activities and reward you for compliant behavior could use their powers to block transactions, add surcharges, or restrict your use of the products. When does free speech – whether against biological men playing in girls’ sports, questioning the side effects of vaccines, or defending gun rights – make someone a target in the world? this new system? When is your debit card canceled because of old tweets, your home school loan refused for your kids’ home schooling, or your eBay account invalidated because a friend reported you for posting a Gadsden flag?
Federal fingerprints don’t directly relate to recent actions – yet. Creating a “Digital Dollar” would put an exclamation point on a new social credit score. By working with large tech companies, citizens not convicted of a crime could lose their ability to conduct business transactions. Over time, decentralized forms of money, such as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, can be the primary means for dissidents to operate – as long as the federal government does not move in to crush them. If the Fed and members of Congress are now skeptical of crypto, its use by political undesirables could lead to a stealth effort to severely restrict or ban these currencies.
As long as there is no organized retreat, our future could follow that of increasingly illiberal societies. Just last week, the UK government announced its own version of a social health credit scheme. The Chinese system was announced only seven years ago. With the growth of algorithms and reliance on tech giants, the ability to track, censor, and possibly punish ordinary citizens will be mind-boggling by 2030. America’s descent into a golden age of the 21st century ruled by tech titans is not inevitable. However, do you know anyone who would accept a 5% Amazon coupon in exchange for a “call to action”? Or someone replacing their Facebook profile picture to avoid being blocked?
Peer pressure, trendy moves, and the ability to conform to the new system with the click of a mouse combine all of the worst elements of American dopamine hunters. As it grows in scale and power, what may be most surprising about our new social credit system will not be the collective fear of it, but rather the speed with which most people will line up.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book is How Can I Tax You? A field guide to the great American scam. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.