Building Tomorrow, Ep. 16: The Chinese Surveillance State

welcome back the building tomorrow a show dedicated to ways that tech and innovation are making the world a freer safer and more prosperous place as usual I'm your host Paul Matz go with me today in the studio our Matthew Feeney and we'll Duffield today we're going to return to a subject that we dedicated an episode to several weeks ago a place Ivan really a subject that place a couple weeks ago we talked about the transformation of China and all the ways in which new tech is being rolled out and adopted on mass in China in ways that might not even happen in the US and for another five or ten years China's leap frogging us technologically and that story that episode was the optimistic case the ways in which these new texts are going to improve life and economic growth in China but there is a darker side to that tale this new technology also can serve the Chinese government the party in Communist Party as it seeks to surveil and control its people two of these new technologies we're gonna focus on today one is a what's called the social credit system the other is new applications of facial recognition technology but let's get started with the social credit score system we'll what's the like what's the party line I mean I mean that metaphorically as well as well literally I guess our media party line or our popular perception of social credit score systems in China is that they are holistic state systems designed to track the social impact of citizens behavior and either reward or punish them for it and that this is done with a high degree of certainty or efficacy across large segments of the population now when you drill down into it when you look at what this state social credit score system is or aspires to be by 2020 the planned delivery or rollout date and what you see on the ground with regard to these trial social credit systems that for the most part have been put into place privately by Chinese firms there's a lot of a lot of room between the two interpretations or expectations as to what this is and what's what we do need to get to the I guess it's the sesame credit system is the biggest one we do need to talk about that in a minute before we get there I think we're gonna complicate that story of you know a one giant number that determines pretty much everything you can do as a Chinese citizen or consumer we're gonna we're gonna mess with that narrative and show how it's not quite what it sounds like and we're then they're definitely not there yet but before we do there have been some early signs of of a social credit system in place actually working I think Matthew you you and I were talking about this earlier about what was it something like 15 million Chinese people have been placed on because of their low score on one of these systems they've been banned from being allowed to buy plane tickets or to ride trains how's that worried I think it's somewhere between 12 15 million I'm not sure if the exact figure but I think that speaks to what a lot of people in China like about the proposed system China is a country that's undergone an economic transformation in the last couple of decades tons of people are appearing online but there's not a good centralized credit system and a lot of people are not paying back loans even after courts have required them to do so and systems like this right systems by which you can use very popular private companies like Alibaba for example to help utilize a credit system is something that I can I suppose sympathize with white people I think that's a good idea right here but coming out of deck of communism you don't have a history of I guess a Protestant work or debt repayment ethic it's not a high trust society so yeah Trust is an essential part of any functioning economy and this is an attempt to help do that the problem is that these people who are put on the blacklist which at the moment is very small because they're still in the trial period a lot of what we've seen our trial programs that utilize private company data that already exists but it's disaggregated yeah that's right mix but the ultimate goal is 2020 Universal system but if you are someone who's on this list it can be really bad it will make it difficult to buy train tickets plane tickets there's NPR had a podcast recently talking about how at least in one Chinese city being on this list prompts your your ringtone to actually be some sort of siren warning people next to you that you're bad at repaying debts and that that's people who are bad at paying debts but more nefariously i think is what's happened to some people who stand up to the government there's at least one journalist who's quite who i've seen reported on who wrote something the local government didn't like they didn't think that his apology was sufficiently sincere and he can't book train tickets any travel and his life he's he's been put in this weird situation with his he's under affective house arrest thanks to this system and that's the really worrying application of when you're talking about a country in which internal free movement already isn't guaranteed you need there's an internal passport system how much of a new imposition is this if you say now the private Social Credit trial system that this fellow is a part of or subject to has prevented from booking plane tickets but before it the local government being frustrated with him could have prevented him from being allowed to move period is this a new imposition or just sort of stacking one for movement restriction on top of another so to clarify my understands this particular system that's being used to you know get millions of people from being able to purchase plane tickets and train tickets is based off of a government-run pilot system that is for people who have defaulted on debt so their debtors who have had court judgment against them now there is an angle here that's disconcerting which is the way in which the party will use debt default court lawsuits to basically squeeze out entrepreneurs who have angered local party officials and generally just restricting the movement of debtors seems problematic but just to clarify this is not like the and we'll talk about the private credit score systems in the Ennis in a bit this is this is a government-run system just focused on defaulters debtors yeah but I want to make sure that we mention that what what we just discussed namely the the kind of public shaming aspect of this is is not reserved to this sort of system but there are places in China where if you attempt to jaywalk that your image live will appear and there will be loud condemnation of your behavior over loudspeakers and that that's a very creepy application that happen for bad drivers to I mean as a pedestrian I might welcome one of the one of the articles mentioned the particular jingle for that it was for the debtors but they do something similar for the for jaywalkers in some cities but the little jingle was so you know you've defaulted on I'll mow your car payment and you might one day be walking on the street and like on the Billboard see projected your image and it will play on a loop a jingle that goes come come look at these debtors it's a person who borrows money and doesn't pay it back and I don't know what the tune that I imagine it must be to like maroon 5 or some hated band but um do we have any evidence that this this is effective like do we see higher debt repayment rates or in the place or they've rolled it out is there data yeah on the debt size I decide I don't know on the jaywalking side there's been a number of articles where they noted at least the city officials are claiming that at these targeted intersections where jaywalking was a problem the rate has fallen though they did have to train people to respond in the way they wanted that first people thought like oh I'm famous I've on this screen and they had to be told no no you're being shamed that's exactly how it would work here we couldn't do that that'd be instant like a celebrity's they'd put their twitch handle up or something with it yeah so but you have this I mean it's not at the point where you have a single score across multiple domains across the entire country it's all kind of pilot programs for you know targeting jaywalking and then in a particular city or debtor's across the whole country but you can see the pieces kind of oil to boil a frog you could bring all these pieces together into one aggregated system but it's arguable here that like that in preps we should explain that when we talk about social credit systems and we're gonna talk here about what's called Sesame credit which is tied to Alibaba which is the chinese version of amazon basically but even it does actually more than the amazon in a lot of ways yeah I think it's certainly from a bird's eye view calling it the Chinese Amazon I guess does the job for the purpose of this podcast but I think it's important for the audience to know that it does more than what we associate Amazon with and I also want to make sure that we point out that on this side of the Pacific Ocean right we do have something like social credits for certain things and services that we use all the time so your rating on uber is a version of this and when you rate your uber driver the you can we rate things all the time you know Yelp reviews and and when we read it scores and with credit score right it's not a social aspect but it certainly impacts our lives and sure but that's a slightly I mean that's certainly part of it right we're used to things called credit scores but credits credit schools will not affect whether you are allowed to buy a plane ticket to fly simply if you have the money you can buy the ticket it's and that's merging it's like what we are used to a FICO which if you look up the acronym I forget it's just a random group of people up Africa you know there was a three guys who put the other the system back in the 50s and we call it FICO now combine the FICO which is all about lending when you've borrowed money have you repaid it with like customer appreciation programs that reward you for buying from companies well yes social media tracking like are you that are you a poster on social media do you it's like combines these three kinds of data into one yeah but so it be rewarded well it depends you setting the policy right so a private company like if Amazon started doing this there would be very few at least libertarian objections where if Amazon wanted to reward people and give them discounts or favors if they bought American products or if they bought patriotic products you know a lot of red white and blue why CVS gives you a four-foot-long receipt right so there's no libertarian objection to that per se the problem is that the Chinese government's plan for this universal system for 2020 is a lot more intrusive and worrying than Alibaba credit score which some people might find creepy you know do you want a big company like that deciding to reward you if you buy you know good patriotic stuff or foreign goods or if you're buying a bad video games or what that's but at least privately that's its price but a softer touches you can get when it comes to sure and what the Chinese government has in mind is a little more worrying than that yeah would you it raises the specter of okay so you are a dissident you're not happy with the treatment of you know oppressed people groups and so you're complaining about the central government the central government responds by putting you know lowering your social credit score or requiring Alibaba to do so yeah I mean though in which case now yeah you can't buy certain products you're paying more money I mean your your cost of living goes up your ability to move throughout country goes down you might not be able to put your kids in private schools like the debtor system means you can't you have to keep your kids in public school systems so like the ramifications for your daily experience your daily life get get really bad really quickly relies upon a private data gathering capability such that I think it really throws into question the extent to which anyone can use data on a large scale liberally as it were or without illiberal consequence under a single party state or regime you know the act of even private collection knowing that were the state to want it they would be able to have whatever access they wished whether that is morally defensible or at least pragmatically something that that ought or ought not be done I should mention our producer tests had just just texted me and said has anyone seen the black mirror episode yes yes yeah so and I think that you know for our listeners who watched it is that's where there's like a wedding and her her premises down I hate I hate that I know her like this I forget her name but Ron Howard's daughter she's a very good actress in her own right but I'm sorry that that's how I know she plays the protagonist in this near future where daily interactions of opera that's right yes Bryce Dallas Howard she plays the the main character and throughout the day interactions are rated so if you and if we had a good podcast I'd rated a certain number of stars but it's not just that it's your barista all kinds of day-to-day interactions are rated and you have a school and the nightmare scenario that plays out in this black mirror episode is that she's been invited to a wedding but thanks to a few things that happen to her unfortunate realities of the day mean that her her score goes down and down which makes more difficult to rent-a-car more difficult to get certain Goods and it's one of the great things about black mirrors it's sort of this this show that is taking a look at the the near and conceivable future right it's not fun and it's not far off what we're discussing today but we should keep in mind of course that this is the Chinese government that wants to plan all this and I have my own creepy concerns about a private system that black mirror episode there was no coercion as you would see within a state back Social Credit System and you know I was frankly surprised that more characters didn't just walk away and live in it because in Scott more about you will suppose people like to be part of society rating you all the time that's terrible I can actually push pretty far to live in a hot but I weird thing that manages get away from being rated all the time because it's intrusive and dehumanizing but I think so we have this that when people hear Social Credit systems who've seen this episode that's what they're thinking and I think the thing though is that this is that the government is not actually close to rolling out anything like this that the current experience of most Chinese consumers with Ali Baba's you know sesame credit has been actually overwhelmingly popular and positive all the polls that you know you said it pulls me will it's yes sir stuff is I'm out of there Merrick's or impart that's something I think you tease Matthew which was that you have people we shouldn't underestimate the benefits of banking the unbanked like if you want to get if you want to join the global middle class it is vital that you have access to credit and there are people because it's it's a country that only in the last generation or two has emerged from you know essentially a pre-modern agricultural economy they don't have an easy avenue to get onto a banked credit system so having Social Credit which you count transactions not just loans right because there's a there's a cart before the horse problem here which is you don't have a lending history and you can't get it because you'll have a lending history since you know you know it's it and so a social credit system gives you potential access for hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers to getting on the credit at ride to the global middle class right and I think what people might be creeped out about is the fact that someone could spend $10 on or the equivalent haul of ten dollars on diapers or the same equivalent on hard liquor and it would have a different impact on how you're viewed by the private company or potentially even the state whereas you might repay that money regardless of what you spend it on right and be equally good to lenders right but it's the the nudging that I think freaks people out and has this dystopian atmosphere around it there's much in formal cheating of this system or opportunities for arbitrage you know I mean I'm ringing up at the front counter I give the cashier a dollar and he scans the diapers instead of the beer even though I'm buying beer so that it shows up as though I'm responsible and I get discounts and and good rewards when in fact I'm getting my beer and being naughty I don't know I it wouldn't surprise me but I haven't same date okay I would expect just to keep an eye on the greater the rewards the more incentive you have for those sorts of steamy as yeah if if you're smart fridge starts selling data to your insurer and that's to what you put in you would have a fridge that's connected to this to the network that you buy all the good foods that reward you in your social credit score that all go in your fridge is monitoring what you bought and you know refilling it how I talked about Matt doing that here with health insurer right exactly so you have your official fridge that tracks and then you have a black market fridge that doesn't track where you put your liquor and right I mean you get the idea there like that's something there's people always gonna find the way of gaming gave me a system like that well when we move on to the kind of second part of our new surveillance Tech in China and that's facial recognition and we mentioned this with the jaywalking ordinances and what that uses is you know cameras there are over 200 million there'll be 300 million cameras in the next I think by 2020 surveillance cameras in China so like every major intersection street corners I mean in urban centers that's it's hard to find the place in public that isn't covered by a surveillance camera at this point and unlike surveillance cameras in other parts of the world you see high density they're networked which is a big change you know you hear that everywhere in central London is covered by CCTV as well but it's a bunch of private CCTV cameras that no one's really querying yeah I'm are saving so ideas as you know you walk across the street the camera is catching our image it scans your face against the database and can generate who you are just by just from your face at least that's that's the promise of this and then you do all that shaming type stuff we're talking about actually there they're also rolling out car tracking technology using cameras not unlike the drone episode that we talked about in the previous previous week we're in Baltimore they've been trying out drone tracking from the skies that the police can follow any car in the city as it drives around the dust track criminals bank robbers etc not drones yet one day maybe they were using Cessna airplane I'm not aware of it they had a blimp and they lost it and it crashed into the Chesapeake oh that might yes but what we would persistent surveillance systems just anything that you can take photos and then run back through the photos but they're developing a similar system I'm using closed captioning TV cameras which would follow a person a personal level or stars so now the idea here like they there have been a number of stories about individual criminals caught using this closed caption facial recognition system like there was a potato thief who stole $17,000 worth from potatoes as as one does I imagine will and the weekends you're not in your Kaczynski cabin you're out there stealing potatoes but he got caught here sure he got caught going through a security checkpoint at a pop concert and the facial recognition software said this is a wanted man who's you know under uh you know using fake documents so these stories are getting are being highlighted by the government there is something Orwellian about the idea of even police using like smart glasses with cameras in them with facial recognition technology just scanning crowds looking for criminals but there's a bit of a mismatch between the official story of what this looks like and how it works and what is actually going on behind the scenes so like you look when you look at the jaywalking stories and you dig down a little bit it turns out the system's not really automated so they are taking videos everyone that's a jaywalk but then someone has to actually go and feed the system can't handle more than a few thousand faces being checked against the system so they're actually doing it by hand on the backend so the cameras capturing people's faces then there by hand putting in batches of a few thousand people to scan against so it's not like they're catching them at the moment instantly identifying them putting them up and shaming them right then and there it can often be weeks or months and it's not very efficient if you're having to do it by hand it kind of defeats the purpose and I assume like most facial recognition systems we see in the world at the moment you get a lot of false positives – so that's an interesting point because false positives and false negatives are an important part of the efficiency right any facial Rena here you've got police wearing you know glasses highlighting certain people's faces so unlike you know a false positive somewhere else here it instigates or might instigate an immediate foot chase yeah the I I want to make sure that we're clear that so a lot of the the jaywalking shaming from what I understand it's not even if it doesn't identify you immediately there will be some sort of detection that someone is jaywalking and it will have a live feed of wherever that intersection is so they might not identify you but it's still enough that I went to some people right and I don't think it's the case and I maybe I'll have to be checked but I don't think it's the case that in every region like every every camera with facial recognition capability in China is being outfitted with the same database right but it's not that hard to think okay well in the center of this town here are the ten thousand people most likely to be here at this desk not that you don't need all 1.4 billion people in China all of that data and I think it is being used in some parts of China right much more ruthlessly than in others there's a big difference between using it to deter jaywalking and using it to track people's religious practices and other things like that well you can imagine you know let's say in a particular region the the local party chapter once there there's a hundred people who they're particularly concerned about right now who have been participating in you know anti-government activity and so they say okay we want to fight we want to catch these people doing something wrong that we can shame them for so we're going to have our database of a few hundred or few thousand people we're going to make that accessible to these jaywalking cams to other kind of monitoring devices so they can be flagged instantly and we can then bring them in for you know that that's our legal fiction for imprisoning or harassing them well I've said in print before that my objection to facial recognition is this pervasive real-time use of law-abiding citizens if you have a facial recognition system that is used as an investigation tool and it is only populated with data related to people with outstanding warrants for violent crimes then my objections reduce in number but it's not clear to me that I mean nothing like that is what we're seeing in China frankly and it's I don't want to scare listen is that you know China is the future of American surveillance we have very different political system and judicial system but it it's frightening nonetheless to see your fellow man treated in this creepy way well there was this interesting aspect of this where it's kind of it's not unlike the social credit system where the official party line is that there is this you know robust single score system that's going to be developed within two years of course the reality that that's hype the reality is that there are bits and pieces of a system that are disconcerting in their own right but we're not anywhere close to a full single school or social credit system the same things kind of true facial recognition which there is the the both the central government and kind of local party chapters and municipal governments have an interest in making people think that they might be being watched and surveilled and recognized you know facial recognition at any given moment even if they're not like it placed their benefit to hype up to exaggerate how far this technology has been developed and how much it's actually being implemented well this isn't a new kind of observation I think people who pay attention to surveillance have said for a long time that some of the scariest implications of widespread surveillance is the the impact it has on law-abiding people yeah in right in the wake of the Snowden revelations of a very interesting studies done on Google searches Wikipedia searches and pew had an interesting survey on people's behavior and it turns out that you don't have to be a Islamic fundamentalist to be a little creeped out by what Snowden revealed and you might be a little less likely to Google certain things medical conditions fetishes religions anything related to you actually quite popular hobbies I have to do with gun making or anything to do with firearms you might it's not a surprise that law abiding people change their behavior in the wake of surveillance either surveillance revelations or not even revelations just new policies like more camera on the street and that's the really worrying thing it's not just people as well but private firms that provide valuable services who PayPal will process payments for is to some extent contingent upon not just state regulation but signals sent by the state as to what is approved and what is not you can look to something like operation choke point there or more recent crackdowns on ASMR cameras post FASTA so there's a sense in which I mean what we're describing here and we talked about this in an earlier episode with Aaron the idea Bentham's 19th century philosopher his idea of the panopticon right where you have you know a prison that in the middle there's a watcher who can look into the cells the prison the what now it doesn't really matter if the watcher in his pant optic on the watcher can see into all the cell's all at once but even the possibility of surveillance so he can't literally watch all the cells himself and just like here the Chinese government can't actually see and process and prosecute based on the information it's receiving from 300 million CCTVs all at once but if you can't determine when you're being very alarmed right you might as well be being surveilled all the time as far as you know is that camera in the corner on the corner of the street corner is it watching is it not I don't know I better it's safer to assume it is right it's safer to assume it is there's actually this is a just a funny tidbit it turns out the Chinese government calls its facial image database it calls it the sky net which I thought I don't know if someone I mean someone in China is a big Terminator fan or if they just didn't get the reference so if you know anyone named Sarah Connor it shouldn't visit any time so maybe like go over there is one little tech tip that I wanted to throw in here and it isn't immediately applicable to like live camera you know facial recognition software but you could see how it might be down the road so at TechCrunch Disrupt there was an anti facial recognition startup it's a love Isreal called di and like you know the pottery the hash ID and ideas your de-identifying dis identifying yourself and what they do is they it's it's really about like social media images so you share an image on Facebook and what you don't want is some company reading the image recognizing it's you and then based on that activity you're engaged in or based on information from that you know knowing more information about you than you want them to know like they now know you went to the beach with your family on this date or etc so there's lots of potential ways in which people don't want those images online giving personal information about themselves out well there's this very bit of it's a bit of a catch-22 when you think about these anti surveillance methods and techniques so you can use something like what poles just described if or you there's a whole niche fashion industry of it's available clothing dazzle paint on and you look fabulous it's also but there's also glasses there's there are garments that cloak you from thermal scanners when you're talking about online you can use tor texting you can use signal the problem is unfortunately some people are gonna think you look suspicious in virtue of doing this yeah you're wearing dazzle paint you look like you know 80's glam rock star sure so that's that's the worry there so I'm not I'm not against people using methods like this of course but I think it's a regrettable fact that states will keep an eye on people who take evasive action when it comes to surveillance oh I think we should expect is like we're talking about like in hindsight this we should expect this to escalate there will be a facial recognition image recognition arms race essentially when you think about though that that's I think easy for for us to say so in the United States for the moment and I think for the foreseeable future even if CCTV is outfitted with facial recognition technology you're not going to get pulled over by the cops if they notice that you're wearing a big hat or if you're wearing for but the problem is that we have anti mask laws in many states yeah a big hat yeah window to end traffic problem is that in in parts of China where this has really been utilized a lot that's just not an option that it's not gonna be good enough for when the Chinese police officer comes up to you to say well I objected this sort of thing so I'm wearing a big hat and I don't need you it's just telling someone who lives in the Uighur community right that that is an option is laughable it's which is a shame this is a good moment to turn to so we've been talking about two new kind of buckets of Technology and how it's you know can be used for surveillance and social control in China let's talk a little bit about the people who are being who are going to be affected by this in some of the worst ways for who for whom the real are being affected by it right now will be it's happening now as you listen to this podcast so while we won't we actually start with talking you mentioned Weger activists weigert dissidents fleshed out who are the leaders why are is this surveillance technology social control technology particularly disconcerting to the weaker community yeah the wiggers are a Muslim minority who live in western China in an area that they would they refer to as East Turkestan what the Chinese referred to as I'm gonna butcher the pronunciation but Jinjiang province which translates basically to new frontier it became part of what the People's Republic and the last century and it's the wiggers are not ethnically Han Chinese it's a distinct cultural group with its distinct language ok great they're Turkic right so they have a distinct cuisine distinct language distinct culture and of course they're Muslim and they have been the target of I think it's fair that they are the target of the most intensive and highly sophisticated surveillance regime in the world Chinese state well it's not like is popularly recognized and they don't necessarily sell themselves this way it's it's an ethnos state it is a Han Chinese state to be Chinese is to be Han Chinese and the reason why well the Chinese well the government would make the argument that this intensive surveillance is necessary because you know the last couple of years a weaker separatists have prompted have committed atrocities so 2014 some we attacks you know killed a couple dozen people 2009 there's a lot of unrest in the region but a lot of that I think of course is is worrying but does not justify the the extent of the surveillance we see and just to I think it's important to outline exactly what we're talking about here we're talking about iris scanners Wi-Fi sniffers mandatory ID the scanning of phones at checkpoints you have their QR codes outside people's homes your codes all these can scan to then determine who's supposed to be in the home it's like a list of residence in QR form yeah we have also shopping bags being x-rayed it's it's it's horrible and at least one Weger who made it to the United States has described when he and his wife were detained having DNA taken having mandatory voice samples and of course mandatory facial scans the the impact this has had on the community is intense the the UN estimates that a probably around 1 million of these people are in what the Chinese government will call vocational training centers right but their concentration camps it's not and I'm not using that term lightly this is a mandatory propaganda brainwashing centers effectively and they the people who are deemed eligible for this kind of re-education is unfortunately down in large part to religiosity that the more devout Muslim you are the more that you profess your religion the more likely you are to end up in one of these places and but it didn't be political Islam Islamism in any sense no to simply be trying to live a halal life trying to follow the edicts of your religion as they applied to you and no one else and not trying to them on anyone else just trying to be a good person as you understand it and yeah that'll land you in you have these really occasion centers and I think it's fair to say that this is the the worst surveillance system we have on the planet is what the North Koreans would use if they could afford it and had the technology but the Chinese certainly have the resources the the governor of the province used to run Tibet which tells you all you need to know these these parts of that cycle them around like the British Empire used to right yeah so these parts of China are I suppose historically difficult to clamp down on and that's in many different factors contribute to that the ongoing worries that people around the world have with Islamic terror of course will provide constant excuses because the week is on Muslim and the the Chinese has certainly have not just a you know there's this horrible cocktail of this this anti religion sentiment but also this ability to conduct surveillance and as I said earlier in the podcast I don't want to make it sound as if you know the the what the week is are being subjected to is what we should be ready for in the United States we have a totally different political and judicial system but it is an example of how this technology can be used when there aren't checks in place it's very very worried buda earlier mentioned israeli the role that chinese foreign investment plays in the somewhat muted response we've gotten with her guard to this from the muslim world particular wealthier areas with him sure so we have a colleague Mustafa Akyol who works here at Cato who's Turkish and I was speaking to him about this a while ago and he said it was really notable that the Turkish president and the Saudis and the Egyptians are pretty quiet about this this crisis in large part because they don't want to piss off the Chinese which is it's easily the the worse Muslim persecution that's happening at the moment I spoke from outside and usually a lot of Muslim communities will be outspoken when they see persecution whether it's in Chechnya or the former Yugoslavia but as long as resize the treatment of Muslims in Europe yes but the Chinese seem to be immune from that degree of criticism which is a shame because they deserve to be the Chinese government deserves to be on the receiving end of Sofia criticism so besides the weavers I mean there are other communities that are not ethnic or religious communities that are also being targeted by the Chinese government we have ordinary consumers we have journalists Oh will you this is something you've done a little bit of research on we've seen a broader media crackdown this summer and fall particularly targeting foreign media or source at publishing capacity not controlled by the state twitch has been banned and beyond the suppression of we Gers we've seen a broader crackdown on religion and religious media and expression in China this summer and fall while you certainly see the harshest conduct reserved for this Weger minority we've seen a crackdown on unlicensed that is uncover new the Chinese state churches bulldozing churches forcing churches to put pictures of G up on the walls and now a bill prohibiting the live-streaming of sermons or religious gatherings you often are seeing prohibitions on church or religious attendance by those under 18 it's really you know cuts religion off at the knees as it were if you can't inculcate or introduce your children to your religion it's pretty hard for it to last beyond your lifetime so we can understand both the Weger crackdown but also abroad Media anti-religious crackdown is this part of a whole that seeks to cut out potential alternative sources of authority particularly political authority outside of the Communist Party and the Chinese state yeah there's this you know vast network of Chinese house churches and who will spread say sermons like a recording of a sermon too you know there'll be a pretty good preacher they can't meet in like an american-style mega church with seating for 20,000 people they're in cells essentially like cell a cell structure and house churches and they'll spread popular sermons among the different houses and that kind of thing is now being criminalized it's it's disconcerting I mean you consider that there are now there are far more Christians in China than there are in the United States actually larger the entire population of the United States so it's a very large community of people who you're starting to see this kind of government crackdown on as well everyone's eyeing that you know you have a connected digitally connected consumer base of somewhere between you know three and a quarter to a billion people who have smartphones use them you know use services like Alibaba etc for almost all of their purchases and much of their their daily life experience people are you know they're ready to try to cash in and get captured part of that market they put pressure on their governments not to speak out against these kind of abuses because well at the end of the day our you know a few million we Gers in western China worth the billions of dollars of lot of potential you know forgone profit from a Chinese marketplace and so there's a there's a calculation going on there for a lot of Western Western companies unlike Google who has you know the project dragonfly was leaked in the last couple of months where they're planning on going obviously how they can go through with this contry should explain what it is yeah let's explain the project dragonfly so back in ten years ago from 2006 to 2010 Google will cooperate with the Chinese government to censor their search that database so if you put in Tiananmen Square nothing would come up or it would you know it would redirect you away from stuff the Chinese government decided was a risk to the regime so Google did once enter in I mean they they went against her first principles which do no evil is the corporate slogan they kind of violated that cooperate with the authorities in the pressure to stop doing so got so strong that they pulled out so for the last eight years they haven't there is no Google search function in China but a new leadership at Google has decided look again this is a large market a very potentially profitable market we want a piece of and so the documents were leaked they've been secretly considering rolling out this project dragonfly a deeply censored version of Google search in which essentially the party could say we don't want these search terms to pop up or if they pimp eyes and searches to individual phone numbers and address it we can judge this search oh yeah yeah can be policed so you know again we have a system in which government voices major companies around the globe aren't willing to speak out against human rights abuses against communities like The Weavers just because it would cost too much and we don't value their freedoms and their liberties as much as we value making money within the Chinese consumer marketplace so that's the situation that we're in I think that's where we'll leave off this week and until next week be well building tomorrow is produced by tests terrible if you enjoy our show please rate review and subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts to learn about building tomorrow or to discover other great podcasts visit us on the web at

  1. That hut in the woods is starting to look mighty attractive. The part about Google relaxing their ethical stance to earn more doesn't surprise me, since large corporations (like states) have no human empathy or compassion, or other drivers of morality. The bottom line will always rule their actions unless forced to do otherwise, by the public shaming or spending habits. Now, this avenue of influence by the public is being closed down by surveillance.

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