This is just one incident, but as the idea of building social solvency increasingly infiltrates other regulations, it reveals the risks of standardizing a practice in which the government makes moral judgments for its people.
Last week, China’s Cyberspace Administration finalized a regulation devoted entirely to “online comments,” which I covered when it was first proposed in June. The main goal of the regulation is to place social media interactions, including newer forms like live streaming, under the same strict controls that China has always had for other online content.
These rules aren’t really part of the wider social credit system, but I still found some familiar language in the document. It calls on social media platforms to “conduct credit assessments of users’ behavior when commenting on posts” and “conduct credit assessments of comment management by public account producers and operators.”
The idea is that if an influencer or user posts things that are not trustworthy, that should be reflected in the person’s credit rating. And the results of the credit assessment will determine “the scope of services and functionality” offered to individuals on certain platforms.
It is not the only specific example of the Chinese government using the importance of “solvency” or “trust” to justify more rules. This was seen when the government decided to blacklist celebrities who promote “bad” morals, crack down on social media bots and spam, and hold administrators of private group chats accountable.
All this means that the ongoing development of China’s social credit system is often in sync with the development of more authoritarian policies. “As China increasingly focuses on people’s social and cultural lives, further regulating the content of entertainment, education and speech, these rules will also be subject to the application of credits” , legal scholar Jeremy Daum wrote in 2021.
However, before leaving, I want to warn against the tendency to exaggerate the perceived risks, which has happened repeatedly when people have talked about the social credit system.
The good news is that so far, the intersection of social credit and online speech policing has been very limited. The 2019 draft regulation to build a social credit system for the Internet sector has not yet become law. And much of the talk about establishing credit rating systems for social media, such as that called for by the latest online comment regulation, seems more wishful thinking than practical guidance at this point. Some social platforms operate their own “credit scores” (Weibo has one for each user, and Douyin has one for shopping influencers), but these are more secondary features that few in China would say are the most important. important