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Debunked: World Economic Forum did not say Covid lockdowns were test for ‘social-credit scheme’

Irish social media users shared a headline from a fake news site

SCREENSHOTS OF A headline from a misinformation website misciting the World Economic Forum (WEF) have been shared by Irish social media users.

The screenshot of a headline from News Punch, a website known for publishing untrue and baseless stories, reads: “WEF Says ‘Billions’ Who Complied With Lockdown Restrictions Will Also Comply With ‘Social-Credit Scheme’”.

However, the WEF said no such thing, and despite the use of quotation marks in the headline, the term “social-credit scheme” does not appear in the WEF article that News Punch cites.

Screenshots of the false headline have been shared widely onlineincluding on Facebookas well as Instagram

The screenshot does accurately show the headline of the News Punch article

This article claims “the WEF admit that Covid-19 lockdowns were a ‘test’”, citing a WEF article called ‘My Carbon’: An Approach For Inclusive And Sustainable Cities.

It also says that the article calls for “a social-credit style carbon emissions rationing scheme”.

However, looking at the actual WEF article paints a different picture.

The cited WEF article is an opinion piece authored by Kunal Kumar, an India civil servant with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, who works as Mission Director for Smart Cities Mission.

A line at the bottom of the article reads: “The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.”

These pieces are not written by the WEF to outline their official positions, but are guest blog posts commissioned from pitches that can be sent in by anyone (their pitching guidelines are here).

The article talks about how new technologies can be used to track the personal carbon footprint of citizens and how this can be used to encourage behaviour that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, at no point does the WEF article refer to a social credit system, like that used in China, which, among other things, can prevent people from travelling by train if they lower their score by committing infractions such as walking a dog without a leash or not paying taxes.

The Chinese State Taxation Administration said that those with a low score should be made to “feel controlled, restless and frightened” in order to encourage better behaviour. 

An archive of the WEF webpage, captured on 15 September, the day after the article was published, shows that the term “social-credit” was not included in the article then, nor is it included on the live version, despite it appearing in quotes on the News Punch website.

Nor is there much in the article to suggest something akin to a social credit scheme.

Instead, the article mentions reducing greenhouse gas emission by using technology to track the “personal carbon emissions” of individual and to suggest ways to reduce these, as well as economic incentives, awareness campaigns, and changes in social norms.

While the WEF article does say “Covid-19 was the test of social responsibility”, this is not the same as the WEF admitting that Covid-19 lockdowns were a “test”.

Instead, the author praises the public for adopting public health measures, like mask wearing and contract tracing, saying this showed “individual social responsibility”.

The News Punch headline and the screenshots shared online are false. The “social-credit scheme” it includes in quotes doesn’t appear in the article, nor does a suggestion of such a scheme using other descriptions.

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