China’s Ambitious Step: Extending the Social Credit System to the Metaverse, According to Report

Documents reviewed by POLITICO on August 20 reveal that China Mobile, a state-owned telecommunications company, has put forth proposals for the implementation of a digital identification system in virtual worlds. This digital ID system would encompass both “natural characteristics” and “social characteristics” of users within the Metaverse and online virtual worlds.

The proposals outline the concept of creating a digital identity that stores a wide array of personal information and identifiable markers, including an individual’s occupation. It’s suggested that this data be permanently stored and shared with authorities to maintain order and safety within the virtual realm.

An example provided in the proposals illustrates the potential benefits of such a system. In a scenario involving a user who “spreads rumors and creates chaos in the metaverse,” a digital ID could enable law enforcement to quickly locate and take action against the individual responsible.

The proposed system shares similarities with China’s existing social credit system, an evolving infrastructure designed to incentivize positive behavior by assigning scores and rankings to citizens based on various metrics. This system has also been utilized for enforcement purposes. For instance, in 2018, authorities reportedly prevented individuals with low social credit scores from purchasing plane tickets 17.5 million times.

China Mobile submitted these proposals during discussions with a focus group on the Metaverse convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a communications technology agency of the United Nations. The focus group is set to reconvene in October, potentially leading to a vote on the proposals. If approved, these suggestions could exert significant influence on telecommunications companies and tech firms, as the ITU’s Metaverse group seeks to establish new standards for metaverse services.

Sources indicate that Chinese companies participating in the focus group are putting forth a higher volume of metaverse-related proposals compared to their counterparts in the United States and Europe. This concerted effort appears to align with China’s strategic intent to establish its proposals as the prevailing standards for the metaverse, should its utilization become widespread.

Critics, however, raise concerns about the implications of entrusting identity protocols to Chinese authorities in a virtual environment, prompting considerations about the potential nature of the immersive world that might emerge from such developments.

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