A Social Credit System is On America’s Horizon
By Jake Morphonios
December 3, 2019
I've been reading up on the growth of China's social credit score program and how it is used to control the thoughts, speech and behaviors of the masses. In a nutshell, the social credit score system is similar to a FICO credit score used here in the USA, except the social score in China tracks more than your financial history. It tracks your speech and behavior.
Human monitors and artificial intelligence programs are used to record the things that Chinese citizens say and do, online and offline, and score these activities according to a government point system. Quite literally, thousands of Chinese citizens are employed by the government, to walk around their neighborhoods with black notebooks and write down what they see people doing. Also, government agencies and companies track individual’s activities.
If a Chinese citizen does what the government wants, such helping a neighbor or "donating" money to the communist regime, they get positive points. If they do something that the government doesn't like, such as criticizing the police, they lose points.
If your score drops below a certain level, you are slapped with all kinds of prohibitions. For example, you are no longer allowed to travel by train or plane, but must turn to the public bus system – even if that means that it will take you 15 hours to get across the country by bus to visit an injured relative in the hospital, rather than 3-4 hours by plane. The thinking is that it’s not the government’s fault that you can’t be there for your loved one in their hour of need. It’s your own damned fault. You shouldn’t have clicked LIKE on that anti-government social media post.
A lowered score means that you cannot get a home loan or put your children into certain schools. Even criticism of the social scoring system itself can result in penalties.
Many are quick to criticize China's system, and justifiably so. But what Americans don't seem to realize is just how close behind we are to a similar social credit system role out in our own country. The framework is already in place.
To illustrate, I'll take you through a brief comparison of the Chinese vs American multinational conglomerates that make these social credit systems possible. In China, one of the main companies behind the scoring system is Alibaba. In America, one of the main companies laying the framework for a similar system is Alphabet.
Let's start with China.
The largest retail company in the world is China's Alibaba Group. Alibaba is also the largest e-commerce company in the world. It also ranks near the top of the world's largest internet companies, venture capital firms, investment corporations and artificial intelligence technology developers.
Alibaba is breath-takingly powerful. It is to companies what Godzilla is to monsters: the undisputed King. If you take all of the online sales and profits of Walmart, Amazon and eBay and add them together, Alibaba’s sales surpass them. And it is only growing bigger.
In 1999, a Chinese entrepreneur named Jack Ma, along with a team of 17 friends, founded Alibaba.com. With the help of US investors, including Yahoo!, Alibaba surged in growth.
Alibaba Group is a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company. Holding companies generally do not produce their own goods or services. What they do is buy up the controlling stock shares of smaller companies to take over them, but they allow those companies to retain their own individual brand names, thereby keeping the true ownership of the company unknown to the general public.
A conglomerate is a group of parts that remain distinct entities from one another. So, a multinational conglomerate holding company is a parent company that owns multiple companies from different countries and different industries.
By purchasing the majority stakes in a spectrum of smaller companies, these multinationals enjoy the strength of industry diversification while limiting risk and liability for the owners of the holding companies. As you might imagine, the reduction of liability to the holding company's owners results in them pushing the smaller companies in their portfolios to do whatever it takes to maximize the financial profits to the holding company.
These conglomerates, from the positions of control, will direct the individual companies to piece their efforts together across industries to bring to life Frankenstein monsters such as the Chinese social scoring system. For example, Alibaba’s cross-industry companies collaborate together to make China’s social credit system a living, breathing reality.
Alibaba is very much in bed with the communist government, and whenever government combines with private industry for mutual benefit, you usually end up with something that sounds like a good idea – but that ends up turning against the people and strangling the life out of them.
Here in the United States, we aren’t quite as far along as China when it comes to the implementation of the scoring system. But we are well on our way. So, let’s compare China’s evil conglomerate, Alibaba, to America’s evil conglomerate, Alphabet by looking at the role that Alphabet subsidiaries Google and YouTube play in the beta version of this future American social credit scoring system.
Most Americans are unaware that YouTube is actually owned by Google - which itself is actually owned by a massive US-based holding company - the multinational conglomerate called Alphabet. Let’s look at how this monster was pieced together.
In 1995, an online auction company named eBay was launched. Early on, sellers who accepted payments by credit card had to have merchant accounts that included hefty processing fees. But a solution to the problem was just around the corner.
Meanwhile, a couple of college students in California were working on a research project for school which they nicknamed “Back Rub”. It was a computer algorithm that could be used to perform internet searches. In 1998, the men incorporated a company called Google to market their search engine service. In the beginning, Google’s headquarters was the garage of a friend of the company owners named Susan Wojcicki.
Separately, in 1998, a group of men in Silicon Valley founded a Palm Pilot payment processing company called Confinity. One of those men was Peter Thiel, now one of the richest men in the world. In 1999, Confinity introduced a money transfer service called PayPal. Then, in 2000, Confinity merged with an online banking company founded by Elon Musk called x.com. In 2001, the company changed its name from x.com to PayPal.
And that takes us back to eBay. In the early 2000s, many eBay users were using PayPal to make their auction payments to eBay sellers. At first, eBay tried to get sellers and buyers to use eBay’s own payment processing system, but PayPal remained the preferred processing option for most customers with more than 70% of all purchased being process by PayPal. So, in 2002, eBay purchased PayPal.
[Ahem. You can make a donation to support Jake's reporting using PayPal!]
Three of the men who had helped to build PayPal, teamed up together and launched their own company in 2005. They named it “YouTube”. Co-founder Jawed Karim said that the idea for the video sharing company came about because he had trouble finding video clips on the internet of Janet Jackson's infamous 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction”.
However, the other two co-founders of YouTube said their original inspiration was to create a "hot or not" style online video dating service. Regardless of which version of YouTube’s founding you want to go with, the fact is that YouTube was founded by a group of guys with raging hormones.
YouTube went live in 2005 and was premised on the idea that YOU are the star of the show, not the