According to a report from POLITICO on August 20, China appears to be taking steps to introduce a system resembling its real-world social credit system into the metaverse and virtual online environments.
State-owned telecommunications giant, China Mobile, has put forth a proposal for a universal digital ID for users of the metaverse and online virtual realms. This ID will be based on both “natural characteristics” as well as “social attributes.”
To ensure stability and safety within these digital domains, the proposed ID would be packed with extensive personal data, such as an individual’s profession. The proposal suggests that this data should be permanently retained and made accessible to law enforcement agencies.
Highlighting the potential advantages of this system, the proposal mentions problematic users who may disseminate false information or create disruptions in the metaverse. Armed with the digital ID, authorities could swiftly identify and penalize such individuals.
This concept bears a striking resemblance to China’s ongoing social credit initiative, which is a program intended to encourage desirable behavior among citizens by scoring and ranking them based on various criteria. This system has previously been used to enforce rules.
In a revealing statistic from 2019, the Associated Press noted that individuals flagged by this system were prevented from purchasing plane tickets 17.5 million times in the year 2018. Furthermore, these flagged citizens were also restricted from buying train tickets 5.5 million times.
This innovative proposal was introduced by China Mobile on July 5 during deliberations with a Metaverse-focused committee organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a subsidiary of the United Nations. This group is scheduled to convene again in October, during which a vote on the proposal may take place.
Should this proposal be greenlit, it could wield significant influence over telecommunications and technology companies. The ITU’s Metaverse committee is actively working on establishing new benchmarks for metaverse offerings.
One contributor to the group informed POLITICO that Chinese entities are currently much more active in submitting metaverse-related proposals than their American and European counterparts. This suggests that China is “strategizing for the long haul,” aiming to ensure its proposals set the norm for the metaverse if it gains global traction.
They further reflected on the potential consequences: “Visualize a metaverse governed and overseen by the Chinese regulatory bodies. Every nation must contemplate: ‘is this the kind of all-encompassing digital realm we wish to inhabit?’”