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China technology

China watchdog works on online credit blacklist system to punish debt defaulters and trouble-makers

  • Building a blacklist to name and shame misconduct in cyberspace is likely part of China’s broader plan for a social credit system
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 11:07pm

China’s internet watchdog is reportedly working on a blacklist for credit defaulters in cyberspace as Beijing tightens its grip over the world’s biggest online community, in which more than 800 million people shop, chat, post and watch videos online.

The Cyberspace Administration of China is stepping up research on “building a credit blacklist system for the internet and a joint punitive mechanism” for misconduct online in an aim to boost cyberspace integrity via improved systems and regulations, said Liu Liehong, deputy director of the administration on Monday.

Liu said at the China Internet Integrity Conference in Beijing that all websites should have “zero tolerance” on credit defaulters in cyberspace and should voluntarily clean up “locusts” who violate rules frequently or conduct activity with “lack of credit”, according to mainland media reports.

Building a blacklist to name and shame misconduct in cyberspace is likely part of China’s broader plan for a social credit system. First announced in 2014, China is creating a system to rank all of its citizens based on their “social credit” by 2020.

The exact methodology is not public knowledge but behaviour such as reckless driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, and refusing to pay debts could all lead to a drop in credit score, which could lead to punishments such as being banned from air travel or staying in reputable hotels.

Without disclosing a timetable for the cyberspace blacklist, Liu urged all websites to speed up production of a credit management system, implementing real-name registration for internet users and establishing files that can reflect the online creditworthiness of customers.

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Liu’s comments come amid China’s intensified campaign to clean up the Internet, declaring war not only on vulgar content and gossip-mongering but also anything that does not align with “core socialist values”. Pressure from Chinese regulators has prompted some of China’s biggest social media platforms, such as Tencent’s WeChat, Sina’s Weibo and Bytedance’s Jinri Toutiao, to step up their own self-policing efforts.

The blacklist system may also apply to companies involved in online businesses such as e-commerce, e-payments and online travel agencies.

Ren Xianliang, head of the China Federation of Internet Societies, said in the same conference on Monday that his organisation is working with relevant government agencies to build a blacklist system and will regularly name and shame companies that exhibit bad behaviours.

“[The intention is to ensure] companies with credibility stride forwards whereas those without credibility, struggle to make any move at all,” he was quoted as saying by Chinanews.com.