The site allows one to crowdfund a bounty for proving or disproving a claim that the sponsors believe to be a bogus or true statement respectively. If the sponsors’ claim is falsified, the falsifying party (challenger) gets the bounty, otherwise the initiating sponsor (campaign creator) gets 20% of the bounty, and other sponsors get about 80% of their contributions back. TruthMarket runs the site, adjudicates claims, and collects fees. See their FAQ and quickstart guide.
It seems fairly clear from the podcast that TruthMarket is largely a publicity mechanism. A big bounty for a controversial (as played out in the media anyway) claim could be newsworthy, and the spin would favor the side of truth. The claims currently on the site seem to be in this vein, e.g., Obama’s birth certificate and climate change. As far as I can tell there’s almost no activity on the site, the birth certificate claim, started by Hayes-Roth, being the only one funded.
The concept is fairly interesting though, reminding me of three things:
- A degenerate prediction market, producing much less information, but still providing some incentive for producing facts, and avoiding gambling and investment regulation.
- A low-brow science court (an idea which, first proposed in 1967 by Arthur Kantrowitz seems to have been intensively discussed for a decade or more, but not much now; for my future reading, papers from a 1994 conference and from 2010 Science Court: Past Proposals, Current Considerations, and a Suggested Structure).
- Crowdfunded advertising campaigns; LoudSauce is one site specializing in such.
Many interesting combinations of these ideas are yet to be tried. Additionally, TruthMarket apparently started as TruthSeal, an effort to get web publishers to vouch monetarily for claims they make.