Falsifiable PR, science courts, legal prediction markets, web truth

Point of Inquiry podcast host Chris Mooney recently interviewed Rick Hayes-Roth of TruthMarket.com.

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:

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.

2 Responses

  1. Gordon Mohr says:

    Also reminds of LongBets.org.

  2. I recommend Jim Lippard’s comments on http://www.pointofinquiry.org/rick_hayes-roth_truthmarket regarding naive falsifiability.

    There’s value in providing additional incentive to debunk/support likely true/false claims and additional publicity for such, but representing such as science without massive qualification and tentativeness is distressing.

    Tangentially, probably the funniest moment in the podcast (there were a few; host and guest seemed somewhat mutually credulous) was when the guest noted he has a PhD … in science. At least not a master’s degree. I searched a bit and couldn’t find any reference to what the guest’s 1974 PhD subject was, but from his papers, I’d guess some kind of information/computer science.

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