Facebook/China to citizens: No worries, we’ve got your number

by WorldTribune Staff, August 21, 2018

What works for communist China appears to be good enough for Facebook, some critics say.

Earlier this year, China introduced a “social credit score” in which the communist government decides who in the country of 1.4 billion people is and isn’t trustworthy.

Facebook is following Beijing’s lead with a new rating system which predicts users’ trustworthiness, reports say. Facebook officials denied that that the social media giant has deployed “a centralized ‘reputation’ score.”

The rating system was revealed in a report by The Washington Post – and later confirmed by Facebook to The Sun.

Facebook said the system is in place to “help identify malicious actors.”

Tessa Lyons, who heads up Facebook’s fight against fake news, said: “One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles. For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

Lyons said a Facebook user’s trustworthy rating “isn’t meant to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility” but is intended as a measurement of determining how risky a user’s actions may be.

The Washington Post article noted that Facebook was rating users’ trustworthiness on a scale of zero to one.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Sun: “The idea that we have a centralized ‘reputation’ score for people that use Facebook is just plain wrong and the headline in the Washington Post is misleading. What we’re actually doing: we developed a process to protect against people indiscriminately flagging news as fake and attempting to game the system. The reason we do this is to make sure that our fight against misinformation is as effective as possible.”

Many observers were comparing Facebook’s system to China’s social credit score system, which will become mandatory in 2020.

The Chinese government analyzes citizens’ social media habits and online shopping purchases and then assigns them a score.

The score is used to determine whether people can take out loans, attend private schools, buy property and even travel on public transport.

Community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise the social credit score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it, as can jaywalking or skipping train fares.

Citizens with very low ratings become “blacklisted,” making it impossible to book a plane flight, rent or buy a property or stay in a luxury hotel.

Technology Review noted that “One of the biggest concerns is that because China lacks an independent judiciary, citizens have no recourse for disputing false or inaccurate allegations. Some have found their names added to travel blacklists without notification after a court decision.”

Petitioners and investigative journalists are monitored according to another system.

Liu Hu was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere, according to a CBS report.

“I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” he said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

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