When the decentralized prediction market platform, Augur, was launched, everyone knew that at some point, the assassination markets will start popping up. But that doesn’t change the fact that users are now starting to bet on whether or not the U.S. President Donald Trump will be assassinated by the end of the year. It is a jarring thing to see on a widely popular platform like Augur.
It might not be the most popular bet on Augur, but at the time of writing, more than 50 shares have been traded. And it’s not just Donald Trump who is on the list. There are other high profile individuals ranging from U.S. Senator John McCain, to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the visionary who spends $1 billion every year on Blue Origin, his space company.
To keep users away from this assassination market, some decentralized application (dApp) browsers have already started filtering out these markets from the user interface, which is a good thing. But that still doesn’t change the fact that if there is a user who is keen on getting in on this action, they would find a way no matter what.
So to ensure that doesn’t happen, these markets have to be removed entirely from the network, which is almost impossible now.
Not only that, some smart users have already started creating proxy markets that avoid certain key-word filters that these browsers are using to block these markets. For instance, a user could very well create a bet saying “Will Donald Trump still be president at the end of 2018?” which is close enough to “Will Donald Trump be killed in 2018?” Both of those markets will attract the same type of gamblers.
Why Doesn’t Augur Delete These Markets?
Great question. The issue is that up until 12 hours ago, Augur’s developers had a “kill switch” through which they could lock up all the contracts on the network in the event of a critical bug and save the platform from falling prey to another DAO hack. But the kill switch only lasted for two weeks. And since that time has passed without facing an incident, the developers have transferred the ownership of the kill switch to a burn address. This means that no single entity can control the network.
But here’s the interesting part about this – the assassination markets started appearing before the expiration of the kill switch. Does that mean that Augur’s developers should be held responsible for this?
And considering the worst case scenario, if someone commits a murder because of these markets, who should be held responsible for that?
When we asked that question, we realized that the Augur team was already prepared for this situation and they knew that we would someday end up asking these questions. And to avoid getting into hard situations themselves, they have provided themselves with legal cover. But they have also taken measures to make sure that these markets are less accessible. But then again, the issue still remains about people who are keen on accessing these markets.
But at the end of the day, this was bound to happen. Because Augur is a decentralized platform, the entire network relies on the “wisdom of the crowd” to determine the outcome of the markets. Not only that, the network also relies on the crowd to decide whether a particular market is ethical or not. So the people have all the power here to shut down these assassination markets. But the question is, will they shut it down?