Draft regulation expands social credit blacklists to online content

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The Chinese government is expanding its social credit blacklists to online platforms and their users, aiming to punish “untrustworthy conduct” on the internet, according to draft regulations published this week by the country’s internet regulator.

Why it matters: The draft not only focuses on platforms but also individuals, potentially enabling the government to more effectively crack down on online conduct and impose restrictions on an individual’s internet activity.

  • The move forms part of a broader push to deploy punishments across government departments as a means to enforce existing laws.

“It generally follows the pattern of other blacklists by enforcing laws rather than creating new obligations, but subject area is broader and involves more individual conduct than others mainly concerned with corporate conduct.”

—Jeremy Daum, senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, who has translated many of China’s social credit documents, wrote on Twitter

Details: The draft regulation was published by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on Monday and is open for public comment until August 21.

  • The measure aims to punish platforms and users for spreading information that violates social morality and harms public interest, among others, according to the draft document.
  • Platforms face having their business licenses revoked as well as restriction from market entry.
  • Users could face restrictions on online conduct in accordance with the law, the CAC said. The limit on online activity “is far too broad and should be commented on,” said Daum.
  • The effective period for the blacklist is three years, according to the regulator.

Context: In 2014, China laid out a broad plan to develop a social credit system in order to promote a “sincerity culture.”

  • By keeping and aggregating throughout government ministries and departments, Chinese officials hope to gain insight into how people in the country behave and develop ways to control them.
  • Despite its name, it’s not a single system, but a complex ecosystem containing numerous subsystems at various levels of development.
  • Blacklists, as well as redlists for positive behavior, form the backbone of social credit.