Laolai. It’s a derogatory term for people who avoid paying debts and fines. Banks do what they can to protect themselves, and now you can too: in Hebei province, a WeChat mini-program searches for laolai in a 500-meter radius, in hopes that public pressure from peers will force some debtors to pay their fines. The Higher People’s Court of Hebei call the tool “a map of deadbeat debtors”.
The mini-program works by showing your current location, overlaid with a radar which identifies the laolai around you. You can tap on them to get some surprisingly personal information: full names, court case numbers, ID card numbers, home addresses, and the reason they’re on the list. The radar itself will change color based on the concentration of laolai in your area, from red (most concentrated), to orange, yellow and then blue.
Into the Black Mirror: The Truth Behind China’s Social Credit System
The highly-specialized app was designed with a key purpose in mind: tattletaling. Users can call out debtors who do have the capability to pay back what they owe. “It’s a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment,” said a spokesman of the court.
The app is just one of many recent developments in China’s social credit system. Work on the scoring algorithm will be complete by 2020, nine years after development began. While it may not be finished yet, around 18 million people have already been banned from flying, and a further 5.5 million banned from purchasing high-speed train tickets, all due to owing debts. Just more convincing reasons to make sure you’ve paid those library late fees.
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