China’s Citizen Score Creates An Orwellian Social Rating System

hand of a businessman holding the fifth star

An episode of the dystopian sci-fi series, Black Mirror, is becoming a reality with the implementation of China’s social credit system. Though still in its nascency, China’s citizen score will become mandatory by 2020, affecting citizens’ abilities to get jobs, access the internet, and travel, based on the way the government deems their behavior.

The Chinese Social Credit System

It’s voluntary for now, but once it decides on the best algorithm, the Chinese government will obligate every citizen to abide by a set of rules that will dictate their ability to access services within society. There are currently eight companies competing to build this platform which will be enforced by the country’s massive surveillance apparatus.

There are already a number of users who have voluntarily signed up for the program, in hopes they may be rewarded, or at least immune to punishment when the system is mandated. Some believe the program will benefit society as a whole, while others fear their children may suffer if parents’ social scores become a factor in deciding which schools they can attend.

AliBaba is one of the top contenders for the interface, as its mobile payment app, AliPay, is used by roughly 520 million citizens. Its interface, Sesame Credit, is similar to a FICO credit score, but instead of having your financial behavior affect your ability to take out a loan or credit card, Sesame Credit would affect one’s ability to get into certain restaurants, travel, or even go on a date with someone.

The score can be affected by a number of behaviors, including what you say on social media, smoking in public, jaywalking, or getting into disputes with others. These behaviors are then translated into a numerical “sincerity” score and entered into the system.

Some of the citizens who have already signed up say they enjoy using it and that it has influenced them to be better members of society. They say they’re more conscientious about their behavior in public and the way they treat others.

But those who see how eerily Orwellian the system is, warn that it is a type of gamified social obedience, where a point system is made to feel like a competition that subversively allows for authoritarian social control.

When you also add the fact that the system permits what others say about you to affect your score, the premise of 1984 becomes all too relevant, creating a system where everyone fears their neighbors’ perception of them. This self-policing network effect is a typical strategy of oppression, but with a social credit score, it becomes amplified with less effort from the government.

Keeping with the gamification of the pilot program, rewards have been offered for those willing to subject themselves early. Faster check-ins at hotels, car rentals without a deposit, and shopping loans have been gifted to early adopters.

 

view from surveillance camera

Enforcing China’s Citizen Score

So how does the government monitor its citizens in order to know when to dock them points for any number of minor infractions? With an omniscient surveillance system composed of millions of cameras and a universal database of every citizen.

Known as the Dang’an System, the government maintains a unique dossier on every citizen in the country for the duration of their life. This file can be accessed in seconds by a highly advanced surveillance system complete with facial recognition software. And its omniscience is ever-increasing through the use of machine learning.

Citizens are not allowed to view the personal files the government has compiled on them since their birth – to do so would be a severe violation of the law, disobeying the party and putting one’s standing as a citizen in jeopardy.

The technology is used ostensibly for security threats, ensuring citizens’ public safety. Though it is also used to shame people for minor transgressions, displaying one’s photo on a large public screen for infractions such as jaywalking, followed instantly by a text message delivering a fine.

The technology has also been promoted to its citizens by selling it as an ostensibly convenient tool for daily life. Citizens only need their face scanned to order food at vending machines, check-in at the airport in seconds, or gain access to Wi-Fi.

But much like the credit score, these apparent conveniences are a façade for the more insidious reality behind the technology; that the government is watching and ensuring every one of its citizen’s behavior.

And it goes beyond traditional surveillance methods of CCTV observation in public places. The next phase that is already underway, includes police officers wearing body cameras and glasses equipped with facial recognition software that can identify suspected criminals and threatening gestures. These body cams are even fitted with a wide-angle, fisheye lens allowing for “720-degrees” of recording range.

Social Credit in a Free Society

Some argue that the Chinese social credit is tantamount, or a better alternative to the FICO credit score in the U.S. In China, there isn’t a national financial credit score, so conducting business or attaining a loan can be difficult, if not impossible for many citizens. With a social credit score, there is at least some foundation for judging one’s trustworthiness – or so the argument goes.

Add to this the fact that the surveillance state has been a part of Chinese life for a while now, with online behavior strictly monitored, in addition to a longstanding history of public surveillance. But normalizing surveillance doesn’t make it any less oppressive.

On the other side of the world, it could also be the case that a similar surveillance state is well underway in democracies like the U.S., albeit in a more elusive way.

Rating systems and individual branding are becoming incorporated in many aspects of our lives, recognizably in service industries, but also through big data use for targeted advertising and surveillance. The NSA has its eyes on the communications of every citizen, and it likely has its own dossier similar to the Chinese Dang’an system.

In many ways, the user-generated content that fuels social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide ways for us to rate each other’s lives based on whether we approve of our friends’ and families’ actions. And when we want colleagues to vouch for us in the professional world, we turn to platforms like LinkedIn.

Attempts have been made to create a single, centralized app that rates users’ overall social credit in the U.S., though it was quickly shot down, in part due to poor functionality, but also because our society isn’t ready to blatantly accept a system like that. Even if we have already accepted it unknowingly.

But could there be a way to implement a system like this, that draws from the sentiment of those in China who feel like they are becoming better citizens from a social credit rating?

In a capitalist society that drives its citizens to be self-interested, competitive, and greedy, could a social credit system that rewards good behavior create something that is a net benefit to society? If it left out the Big Brother aspect where small infractions were constantly punished and instead only good deeds were recognized, a social credit incentive might not be so bad.

In fact, this concept has been proposed in the form of rewarding citizens for volunteering their time, being socially responsible, and doing things that are civically engaging. Working together to help others in the community such as the youth, disabled, elderly, and the economically disadvantaged could only be considered in improving one’s credit score.

Could something like this work without having to implement the contrasting, negative side? If this continuous rating system is inevitable, it might be cogent to consider ways in which it could be spun to become a positive force in society, rather than the dystopian nightmare Orwell once envisioned.

Digital Dissidents


Did Nixon Leave Behind Evidence of Aliens in the White House?

white house at night 2

If there’s anyone with insight into the existence of extraterrestrials, it’s the President of the United States. But when the topic of disclosure comes up, Richard Nixon’s name appears infrequently compared to other presidents tied to the government’s ufological secrets. But according to the testimony of one confidential informant, not only has the government made contact, but Nixon left evidence of the existence of aliens in the White House.

And it remains there to this day, he says, hidden in a time capsule – its location known only to a handful of people. Though, Nixon claimed it would surface when the time was right.

That informant is Earl Robert “Butch” Merritt, a man with a storied career as a confidential agent for the Nixon administration. A man who participated in a variety of intelligence operations in the nascent years of what would later become the NSA’s COINTEL program used to surveil, infiltrate, and disrupt various organizations and target groups even before Watergate.

And while Merritt’s credibility might seem questionable when discussing alien disclosure, his career as an informant is well documented, as are his high-level government connections. Which is why his revelation of a clandestine conversation with Nixon regarding the existence of alien technology and a living extraterrestrial entity is hard to immediately dismiss.

Evidence of Aliens in the White House?

President Eisenhower is usually the first name that comes to mind when discussing the White House’s knowledge of an alien presence, particularly in regard to an apocryphal program known as MJ-12, or Majestic 12.

Essentially, MJ-12 was an alleged group of high brass military and government officials organized after the Roswell UFO incident to deal with the implications of an alien presence and its subsequent technology.

And it was that technology recovered from the Roswell crash that is believed to have led to exponential leaps in our technological advancements, many of which have been used to bolster the military industrial complex – an industry Ike so famously warned the world about before leaving office.

Though he didn’t immediately succeed him, Nixon was Eisenhower’s Vice President, making the ufological connection all the more intriguing. It was also relatively well known that Nixon believed in the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrials, despite his release of Project Bluebook’s conclusive analysis; an Air Force study known as the Condon Report, which allegedly put the existence of UFOs to rest.

But according to his testimony, Nixon divulged his knowledge of a “sophisticated intelligent being” to Merritt toward the end of his presidency when he realized the Watergate scandal was becoming an imminent threat. According to Merritt, Nixon claimed the being was alive and in government protection.

He says Nixon entrusted this information to him as he considered Merritt one of his only confidantes, asking him to personally deliver a letter on the subject to Henry Kissinger – a copy of which allegedly remains hidden today somewhere in the White House.

A Dark Journalist’s Disclosure

Merritt’s testimony is corroborated by Douglas Caddy, a man who acted as a defense attorney for the parties convicted in the Watergate scandal and who claims he knows where Nixon’s ET disclosure letter is hidden in the White House. The two published a book titled, Watergate Exposed: How the President of the United States and the Watergate Burglars Were Set Up as told to Douglas Caddy.

Interviews with both men, including Merritt’s accounts of meeting Nixon, and his subsequent mission as letter courier to Kissinger, can be found on the website of Daniel Liszt, an investigative reporter on government and alien conspiracies, who goes by the alias “Dark Journalist.”

Liszt’s interview with Merritt is fascinating in that it delves into his history as one of the most notorious informants for the president and for other city, state, and federal government entities, due to his cutthroat and non-conventional tactics.

In fact, a New York Times profile piece on Merritt confirms this history, focusing specifically on his role helping New York authorities reclaim the Kenmore Hotel – a drug-addled building in Manhattan that was one of the epicenters of the city’s criminal activity in the ’90s.

Merritt was an indispensable tool for Nixon’s Huston Plan – the aforementioned intelligence program to infiltrate and disrupt parties he felt threatened by, particularly political opponents and anti-war groups.

While serving as an informant under the Huston plan, Merritt says he was warned by one of his sources, a switchboard operator next to the Watergate Hotel named Rhita Reid, of the impending investigation into the administration. Merritt said he tried to warn Nixon, but that he wasn’t concerned at the time and didn’t foresee it’s major implications.

Despite this dismissal, Merritt claims he was one of Nixon’s most trusted sources and was even given nicknames including “003” – an obvious James Bond reference. So, when the Watergate scandal played out and the days of the administration waned, Merritt claims he was brought into a secret underground room beneath the White House where Nixon revealed the existence of an alien entity and technology housed at the infamous Nevada military base, Area 51.

“We have possessed knowledge and we have in our protection subjects from a planet X,” Nixon supposedly told Merritt. “Knowledge we obtained so vast and powerful, whoever possesses this knowledge would be the most powerful person in the world,” Merritt recounted.

Merritt claims Nixon then wrote out a lengthy letter that included encrypted formulae to be delivered to Kissinger. He also included two cassette tapes, before sealing the letter and writing something on its outer flap, omitting his normal signature. Nixon then strapped the letter to Merritt’s stomach and sent him to deliver it to its intended recipient for unknown reasons.

Now, he claims that letter remains hidden somewhere in the White House, its location known to he and Caddy who say they will only reveal its location if the National Archives allows one of them to be present to read the letter publicly.

What is there to make of this testimony? While incredibly intriguing at first, there are some pretty farfetched and bizarre aspects to Merritt and Caddy’s story that might be questionable.

It seems if Nixon wanted to clear his name in the annals of history, he would have released this information himself, whether at that moment or before his death. Though in every instance of a president’s alleged attempt at disclosure, the truth always seems to be stranger than fiction.

 

For more on a U.S. President’s attempt at disclosure check out this episode of Deep Space: 

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