We’re just data: Exploring China’s social credit system in relation to digital platform ratings cultures in Westernised democracies
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© The Author(s) 2019. Social media platforms and apps have become increasingly important tools for governance and the centralisation of information in many nation states around the globe. In China, the government is currently piloting a social credit system in several cities in an ambitious attempt to merge a financial credit score system with a broader quantification of social and civic integrity for all citizens and corporations. China has already begun to experiment with metrics and quantification of the value and virtue of its citizens, going beyond the function of measuring workplace performance and health-related self-tracking to measuring one’s purchasing and consumption history, interpersonal relationships, political activities, as well as the tracking of one’s location history. China has also already begun to apply a reward and punishment system that rewards those who comply with the Chinese government’s ideals and punishes those who deviate from them. Although there are no such ambitiously unified systems currently proposed in Western liberal democratic countries, some aligned structures and cultures of social media use are already well in place. This article seeks to offer a comparative examination of the structures and cultures of China’s social credit system with those which are already present and in place in Western liberal democratic countries. While it may be convenient to digitise everyday social, political and economic life, China’s social credit system brings about a vision of what may be to come, should democratic countries continue to do so without stricter data use policies in place.
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