China’s Social Credit System, a government initiative which aims to assign a “social credit” rating to every citizen based on their financial behavior, personal information, and online activity, has earned a bad reputation abroad, including comparisons to an episode of “Black Mirror.” According to critics, the data-based, AI-driven system is more suited for comprehensive social control than keeping tabs on individuals’ financial state like credit score rankings devised in the West.

The trouble with most of this characterization is that it fails to recognize just how fragmented digital credit score-keeping is in China: it is not a single system, but many.

“I think the biggest misconception about the Social Credit System is that it is this evenly implemented all-seeing central bureaucratic surveillance apparatus,” Shazeda Ahmed, a Berkeley Ph.D. student researching the topic, told TechNode.

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Masha Borak

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] technode.com. Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.