The Chinese government’s problematic mandate to evaluate online comments

This is just one incident, but as the idea of ​​building social credibility increasingly permeates other regulations, it shows the risks of standardizing a practice in which governments make ethical decisions. virtue for his people.

Just last week, China’s Cyberspace Administration complete a rule entirely dedicated to “online comments”, which I mentioned when I first proposed in june. The main purpose of the regulation is to put social media interactions, including those in newer forms such as live streaming, under the tight control China has always had over online content. other line.

These rules aren’t really part of a broader social credit system, but I still find some familiar language in the literature. It requires social media platforms to “conduct a credit review on user behavior in commenting on posts” and “conduct a credit review on the management of post comments.” public account operator-manufacturer posting”.

The idea is that if an influencer or user posts untrustworthy things, that should be reflected in that person’s credit rating. And the results of the credit assessment will determine the “range of services and functions” that people are offered on certain platforms.

This is not the only concrete example of the Chinese government using the importance of “reliability” or “reliability” to justify more rules. This was seen when the government decided blacklisting celebrities who promote “bad” morals, cracking down on social media bots and spamand assign responsibility to admins of private group chats.

All of this means that the continued development of China’s social credit system is often in sync with the development of more authoritarian policies. “As China increasingly focuses on the social and cultural life of its people, further regulating entertainment, education and speech content, those rules will also become subject to credit enforcement. ,” legal scholar Jeremy Daum wrote in 2021.

However, before you go, I want to warn against the tendency to exaggerate perceived risk, that happened many times when people discussed the social credit system.

The good news is that so far, the intersection between social credibility and online control of speech has been very limited. The draft regulation on building a social credit system for the internet sector in 2019 has not yet become law. And a lot of the talk about setting up a credit rating system for social media, like the one required under the latest regulation on online comments, seems more like wishful thinking than real instruction. economy at this time. Some social platforms operate their own “credit scores”—Weibo has one point for every user and Douyin has one for shopping influencers—but these are extra features that few people are familiar with. China is the top concern.

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