commentary: Another Mark of the Beast
Our Electronic Reputation Score
David F. Maas
Given 28-Sep-19; Sermon #1508c; 11 minutes
The Beast in Revelation 13 compels all to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead in order to buy or sell. However, there is another brand or mark, in which Satan, the father of all liars, the rustler of all rustlers, disguised as an angel of light, attempts to brand all the saints, destroying their character, preventing them from buying, selling, or traveling. Updating two previous commentaries by Martin Collins, warning of the emergence of a social credit system based on algorithm-driven scores manipulated by secular, humanist, anti-God censors put in place by Silicon Valley big tech platforms [Google, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube] creating, in the words of law professor Larry Backer, "a new mode of data-driven governance through which data analytics are used to create and operate algorithms that provide a basis for rewards and punishment for targeted behaviors." Professor Backer chillingly predicts that the shift of law with this system will "change the focus of public law from constitution and rule of law to analytics and algorithm." Silicon Valley has provided software to enable reputation 'protection' websites to snoop and collect data on everyone who uses social media, branding their character and reputation, following the footsteps of the authoritarian, freedom- killing Chinese Social Scores.
We are familiar with the scripture in Revelation 13:16-17, in which the Beast compels all to receive a mark on the right hand and/or forehead in order to buy or sell.
Today, I want to discuss an entirely different kind of mark or brand, in which algorithm-driven reputation scores could brand followers of Christ as evil, in a toxic climate where evil is called good and good evil, demonstrated by the despicable, Satanically-inspired kangaroo court in the United States House of Representatives this past week.
Because the first mark of the beast consists of being shaped and molded by the mind of Satan, I intend to offer a speculation (not new truth) about another type of mark, stamp, or brand with which Satan, the great deceiver, the father of liars, the rustler of rustlers, is attempting to brand all the saints, destroying their character, preventing them from buying, selling, or traveling.
Is it possible that we have unknowingly assisted the prince of the power of the air in incrementally marking or branding ourselves by our willing, enthusiastic participation in social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube—big tech platforms commandeered and controlled by anti-God secular progressives, whom Almighty God has obviously given over to a hopelessly debased reprobate mind (Romans 1:28)?
My purpose in this commentary is to bring a timely update to two excellent commentaries by Martin Collins: “What is Your Social Credit Ranking?” and “Censorship and Political Correctness.” A year ago, Martin cautioned us,
If you are using Twitter or Facebook, you are already being programmed to accept this social credit system. It’s not a number system; however, you give a like, love, laugh, surprise, sad, or anger rating. You have contributed to the scoring of others [and, I might add, ourselves]. Isn't it interesting how we get stuck in the system and cannot get out?
Five months ago, Martin warned of Microsoft's new AI-based software ("Ideas in Word") designed to make writing not only grammatically- but also politically-correct. Algorithms enable the software to find "offensive" and "insensitive" usages, and suggest modifications consonant with post-modern values. With the implementation of this software, Microsoft follows in the footsteps of Big Tech with a grim record of flagging and demonizing conservative values and viewpoints—a de facto approach to censoring free speech.
Both of Martin’s predictions have now become a sobering and troubling reality. One month following Martin’s commentary on social credit scores, Penn State Law Professor Larry Cata’ Backer published a monograph titled, "Next Generation Law: Data Driven Governance and Accountability Regulatory Systems in the West, and Social Credit Regimes in China." He says, "'Social credit' itself refers generally to a new mode of data driven governance through which data analytics are used to create and operate algorithms that provide a basis for rewards and punishment for targeted behaviors."
Professor Backer chillingly predicts that the shift of law with this system will “change the focus of public law from constitution and rule of law to analytics and algorithm.”
In Mike Elgin’s article, “Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is Building a Chinese-style Social Credit System” [also referenced in the CGG Weekly], after describing the authoritarian system under the Chinese Communist Party, he alerts us that Silicon Valley is hell-bent on establishing the same system in America, creating software to snoop on and establish a database using private corporations to collect or mine data on “undesirable” behavior, insensitivity, and hate speech, enabling the establishment of a reputation score for everyone who uses the internet, potentially jeopardizing an individual’s ability to buy, sell, or travel.
Software to spy on American citizen’s behavior is now employed by insurance companies to detect risky behavior. A consortium of bar owners has employed software from Patronscan to collect and share data identifying troublesome clients. Uber and AIRBNB have similarly collected and shared similar data on undesirable passengers, banning them permanently from using their services.
Elgin warns, “If current trends hold, in the future, law enforcement may be determined less by the Constitution and legal code, and more by end-user license agreements.” In short, algorithms will displace the Constitution.
Just as Communist China punishes its citizenry for their political opinions or the friends they keep, Silicon Valley routinely punishes people for expressing views that oppose the approved progressive viewpoint.
Alan Bokhari in his Breitbart article titled, "YouTube Celebrates Censorship: Boasts 100,000 Videos Banned for Hate Speech," reveals that YouTube proudly, in January of 2018, announced that it had established an Intelligence Desk, hiring a 10,000 strong army of ‘trusted’ flaggers or censors, removing 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels, and millions of comments for “hate speech” violations in the second quarter of 2019, a fivefold increase over the previous period.
In 2018, it was reported that the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), known for smearing critics of progressivism, was one of YouTube’s most trusted flaggers.
Craig Johnson alerts us that a cottage industry of websites and other companies—some of them known as Brand Yourself, Clean Your Name, Reputationmatters.com, ReviewRev, Spokeo, Webimax—are mining your personal data to make a buck. Like the Mafia godfather, “We can save your damaged reputation for a simple fee of $8.95 a month."
One such site is MyLife.com, which compiles information from various sources about your personal life establishing a reputation score, calculated with a proprietary algorithm using details in your background report and reviews written by people who know you. It says a lot about your character and life experiences is used to assess you in many situations.
Mylife.com then compiles an overall numerical reputation “score” that judges character on a scale from 0-5, ranging from Bad, Poor, Fair, and Good, assiduously mimicking the Communist Chinese “social credit score” as part of a national reputation system that judges an individual’s standing in society, stigmatizing people for tweeting an opinion counter to the government line.
All of us, brothers and sisters, who have used social media now have a public reputation score.
The prince of the power of the air, the father of liars, wants to falsely mark or brand followers of Jesus Christ as having unsavory character, sullying our reputations and destroying our ability to buy or sell. We need to be careful not to help him do it by our carelessness on social media. If we find ourselves unfairly marked or branded by a corrupt reputation score, we can take solace in Christ’s assurance:
Matthew 5:11-12 (New American Standard Bible) Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.