A video with a fragment of a news segment from Australia has become very popular on the Internet. In the footage, a reporter informs about the idea that citizens would need 100 points of identification to be able to use social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram. In this article, we explain how the news of 1 April, 2021 became disinformation spread by conspiracy circles that Australia introduced a digital social credit system.
Digital Social Credit System?
The most popular fake post claiming that Australia introduced a digital social credit system was a tweet by @BernieSpofforth. It gained almost 20,000 likes and was re-tweeted over 13,000 times. In Poland, disinformation with the translation of the tweet posted by @BernieSpofforth was published on Twitter e.g. by Radosław Poszwiński, an employee of the Public Television. It is also a popular post on the wykop portal, with hashtags like #orwell or #zamordyzm (despotism).
Although it was broadcast on 1 April, 2021, i.e. on April Fool’s Day, the Channel 9 news segment was not a joke. The idea of requiring 100 points of identification for social media use was one of the 88 recommendations submitted to the Australian government by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in March 2021. However, it did not use the “digital social credit” wording. This phrase was added as a false over-interpretation by conspiracy circles in December 2022.
100 points of identification
The 100 points of identification system is widely used in Australia and requires people to confirm their identity with a combination of documents. Each of them is assigned a certain number of points (from 25 to 60), and a total of 100 points confirms one’s identity. Additionally, at least one primary document must be submitted.
The 100 points of identification system has nothing to do with the “social credit” system introduced in China, which is designed to regulate its citizens’ moral behaviour. The Chinese system deducts points for illegal driving, riding public transport without a ticket, or spending too much time on video games. Penalties include e.g. limiting the possibility of travelling (ban on the sale of airline tickets) or slower Internet.
Criticism of the recommendation
According to the Committee, the introduction of the 100 points of ID system in social media would prevent online abuse and harassment by anonymous Internet users. However, this concept was criticised by experts. In her interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Belinda Barnet of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne noted that people using passport- or ID-verified profiles can still harass others. She also highlighted the threat of providing tech giants with another batch of data in the form of user identity documents.
This was one of the reasons why this recommendation was not included in the final bill passed in September 2021.
This case was also explained by Snopes.
Australia did not introduce a digital social credit system. The news from April 2021 was used by conspiracy circles and became the basis for disinformation. The requirement of amassing 100 points of identification for opening social media accounts was one of the recommendations of the Special Committee. However, ultimately this provision did not make it into Australian legislation on social media and the Internet.
The 100 points of identification system has nothing to do with the Chinese-style digital social credit and is widely used by financial and government institutions in Australia.