In 2018, Vice President Mike Pence slammed China’s plans to implement an “Orwellian” social credit system that controls “virtually every facet of human life.”
This social credit system collects data on almost everything China’s citizens do, assigns them a social credit score, and then doles out penalties to those with low scores.
In China, this social credit score has already been used to block over 23 million purchases of train and plane tickets and is even used to control domestic and foreign companies.
It’s under the idea of this social credit system that Andrew Torba, CEO of the free speech software company Gab, is warning that despite Pence’s criticisms, a version of this Orwellian system is being deployed in the US by corporations “who today have in many ways more power, data, and control over our lives than our government does.”
Torba’s warning is based on his recent discovery that payment processor Visa, which blacklisted Gab last week and prevented it from processing credit and debit card transactions, has also blacklisted his family.
“We were told this week that not only is Gab blacklisted by Visa as a business, but my personal name, phone number, address, and more are all also blacklisted by Visa. If I wanted to leave Gab tomorrow (something that isn’t going to happen) and start a lemonade stand I wouldn’t be able to obtain merchant processing for it,” Torba wrote.
Torba notes that whenever Gab sets up a new card processor, Visa contacts the processor, tells them Gab is flagged for “illegal activity,” and warns them that if they don’t stop processing Gab’s payments, they’ll be heavily fined.
“When the processor inquires about this alleged ‘illegal activity,’ Visa tells them that Gab has been flagged for ‘hate speech,’” Torba added.
Hate speech is not illegal in the US and the Supreme Court has unanimously reaffirmed that there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment.
Yet Torba and his family are being denied payment processing because Gab supports this legally protected speech.
“We have done nothing wrong,” Torba says. “Gab is and always has been a legally operated business. We sell hats, shirts, and a software subscription service that unlocks new features on Gab. My personal credit score is in the 800’s. I pay my bills. I have a wife and daughter to provide for, yet we are all being punished and defamed because someone at Visa has it out for me.”
Torba added that he’s sharing his experiences with Visa as a wakeup call and a warning to others. “If they can do this to me, they can do it to you and they likely will.”
This is the latest of many hurdles Gab has faced since its inception with Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play Store, Google’s Chrome Web Store, and Firefox’s extensions gallery all banning Gab’s products because they claim some of the user-generated content is “defamatory,” “mean-spirited,” or “objectionable.”
It also follows a wave of recent financial blacklistings of sites that support free speech or challenge mainstream ideas with independent news outlet Zero Hedge being booted from Google’s Ad program and banned from PayPal and author and public speaker David Icke being banned by PayPal.
Concerns over US corporations deploying social credit style systems also extend beyond payment processing systems with Twitter’s test of a social credit style fact-checking system that was leaked earlier this year and Facebook’s criteria that it uses to monitor users and determine whether they’re a “hate agent” (which include appearing with or interviewing the “wrong” individual) highlighting how such systems are seeping into many facets of corporate America.