The "Social Credit" Carrot Is Actually a Stick

A recent article on Engadget outlined some of the problems that we're going to see happen a lot more often going forward as various social networks and California-based organisations begin to openly decide who may use their services and who may not based on activities elsewhere. Kaylen Ward, a model who helped raise a million dollars for the Australian Red Cross and The Koala Hospital, recently had all of her Instagram accounts shut down because of what she was doing on Twitter via private messages; namely that she would send a nude photo of herself to people who provided verifiable proof that they had contributed to one of the two previously-mentioned organisations. The article continues and details some of the known details pertaining to AirBnB's new "Trait Analyzer", a series of content scrapers and algorithms that compile information on people using information found around the web in order to build a "social credit" score, similar to what is seen in China though a great deal closer to home. These sorts of algorithms are not new, but they're about to become a great deal more public as companies vie to be the source of truth when it comes to measuring the worthiness of a human being.

But to what end? What value will this have in the long run?

Looking at patterns in the social spaces, anyone who does not openly and loudly identify as one of the ever-shifting, ever-evolving, ever-angry "progressive" ideologies will likely fall afoul of the algorithms and be painted as an antisocial, narcissistic, or psychopathic person. Just as we see with financial credit scoring systems, there will be nobody to take your case to1 and a person will find themselves ostracised for life because of something said in private, or 20 years ago, or not at all.

The ultimate measure of a person cannot be determined by what is shared — openly or otherwise — on the Internet or in conversation. It cannot be determined by looking at where a person stands in moments of comfort and convenience, either. The true measure of a person can only be determined by watching how they treat others; particularly those who are neither equal nor higher in status. This cannot be adequately represented in a score as determined by a computer based on evolving rules around an organisations perception of right and wrong. The people behind these social credit scores are not St. Peter. They do not deserve to be granted the authority to dictate our trustworthiness.

Just because we can do a thing does not mean that we must do that thing. Social credit scores will cause far more unnecessary stress and harm than good. They must not be allowed to gain any traction.

  1. No amount of communication with TransUnion or EquiFax has ever fixed the problems that were created on my credit score back in 2003 when someone made a credit card in my name, ran up the bill, then ran off to leave me with calls from debt collectors for months on end until I could prove without a doubt that I didn't create the card nor spend the money. My calls to the credit scoring companies were pretty much ignored with one person suggesting I "get a good lawyer, as that's the only way to get someone to look at the database".