Black Mirror too real in China as schools shun parents with bad social credit

China's credit score system is taking things to the next level.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
2 min read
STR/AFP/Getty Images

You know that Black Mirror episode called Nosedive? It depicts a society where people use an app to rate each other out of five stars. A little like Uber.

China's "social credit system" will do you -- and your schools -- one better. Not only will all of China's 1.4 billion citizens receive a personal score by 2020, determined by state-run facial recognition, artificial intelligence, smart glasses and other technologies -- that score will determine where children can go to school.

A high school in Changle County, Shandong Province, recently updated its school policy to reflect the new system, according to state-run newspaper The Paper. It says it will no longer enrol students whose parents have bad social credit scores. Since its transition to private owners in 2002, it must abide by strict rules on private enrolment set by local authorities.

"Regarding people who have serious trust-breaking behavior, privately operated schools must limit their children's ability to attend high-tuition private schools, to practically carry out the responsibility of disciplining people with bad credit," the authorities wrote.

A Chinese journalist is the latest to discover what the government will do to citizens who don't behave. Liu Hu, who was detained for a year in 2013 for defamation, was recently ordered by a court to apologise for a series of tweets he wrote.

The government deemed his apology "insincere" and put him on a list of "untrustworthy people". The list not only prevented him from buying a plane ticket, but it's reduced his housing and education options.

"I can't buy property," he told CBS New York. "My child can't go to a private school."

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.

Rebooting the Reef: CNET dives deep into how tech can help save Australia's Great Barrier Reef.