Readers may assume that a “social credit system” where government monitors a citizen’s every move and assigns a score or takes action, could only happen in China. But increasingly, governments can monitor a citizen’s every move in North America too. Technology policy analyst Kara Fredericks explains:
As Canada demonstrated, Western governments and tech companies are mobilizing to cut off mainstream citizens from public life and constrain their private lives. Actions like protesting government overreach, expressing “anti-authority” ideologies, or even sharing “disinformation” on social media may now be classified as terrorism…
In the United States, the increasingly oppressive collaboration between public and private entities is not enforced at the barrel of a gun. It arises from an ideological symbiosis between tech incumbents and government officials. This has allowed governments to successfully encourage tech companies to help police the discourse of ordinary Americans.
For example, White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted in July that the White House works with Facebook to monitor and police speech and later insisted that other private platforms should be “doing more” of the same.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas indicated his organization was working with tech companies to strengthen “legitimate use” of private platforms. Twitter reportedly deferred to the California Secretary of State’s office when flagging and scrutinizing questions surrounding the 2020 election and criticism of President Biden.Kara Frederick, “Sleepwalking Into a China-Style Social Credit System” at Heritage Foundation (March 4, 2022)
The gradual merger of Big Tech and Big Government is worthy of close analysis. For now, let’s look at some recent events:
● Why are we talking about Canada? Who cares? Here’s why: Acting on the orders of the Canadian government, during the peaceful truckers’ Convoy against COVID-19 mandates/lockdowns, the big Canadian banks froze the assets of protesters, leaving them without funds for basic necessities. This was done without any court orders and in some cases merely at the discretion of the banks. The takehome message: Big banks did not require court orders and did not protest demands from the government. Would American (or other) banks behave differently? How, exactly, do you know that they would? No one expected this of the Canadian banks either…
● Many of us, understandably, cheered when MasterCard and Visa suspended operations in Russia. But wait! Putin can take whatever he wants, at home or abroad. He’s made that clear enough. It is ordinary Russians who are affected.
Why do we think these same mega-lenders would not do the same to Americans with the wrong opinions? They have done so already:
Allum Bokhari, who covers Big Tech for Breitbart, reported last July that “progressive activists have launched well-funded campaigns aimed at payment processors, and credit card companies, aimed at cutting the political right off from payment and banking services.” Bokhari also noted that I myself was a victim of this in 2018: “Visa and Mastercard cut off payments to David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. Horowitz later had the service restored, but Islam critic Robert Spencer reported that he too was blacklisted by Mastercard, blaming it on pressure from far-left activists.” Indeed: after a Leftist hate group published an “exposé” about funding of “right-wing” groups, MasterCard cut me off, claiming it had done so because my website featured “illegal content.” That is, content that Leftists don’t like.Robert Spencer, “Why Americans Shouldn’t Be Happy That MasterCard and Visa Have Suspended Russia Operations” at PJ Media (March 6, 2022)
Debanking, enabled largely by new technology, is a powerful social weapon. Why assume it will only be used against those who express unpopular opinions? It could just as easily be used against those who express popular opinions that are seen as a threat to the establishment:
Today, banks may refuse to work with industries that are easily villainized. But tomorrow, activists might call on them to debank a newspaper with a particular political bent, big tech firms, or businesses operating in particular foreign countries. The investor has no way to know their whims, and since banking is a highly regulated industry, there may be few alternative options for targeted businesses. Without this regulation, stability and reliability would be gone.Ellen R. Wald, “Debanking Hurts Everyone” at Barron’s (January 8, 2021)
Consumer protection legislation may be needed. One proposal might be to consider large banks and lenders that serve the general public as similar to telephone companies. Telcos can’t refuse to put through calls merely because their personnel disapprove of the caller or the message.
In addressing these questions. we should bite the bullet: Social credit scores are not universally unpopular. They are popular with people who seek government approval — in a global way — as good citizens and the punishment of those who differ from them. For such people, law courts and public opinion would never be satisfactory.
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