Truth Bounties: A Market Solution to Fake News

54 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2022 Last revised: 12 Sep 2022

See all articles by Yonathan A. Arbel

Yonathan A. Arbel

University of Alabama - School of Law

Michael D. Gilbert

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: August 30, 2022

Abstract

False information causes harm, threatening individuals, groups, and society. Many people struggle to judge the veracity of the information around them, whether that information travels through newspapers, talk radio, TV, or Twitter. Concerned with the spread of misinformation and harmful falsehoods, much of the policy, popular, and scholarly conversation today revolves around proposals to expand the regulation of individuals, platforms, and the media. While more regulation may seem inevitable, it faces constitutional and political hurdles. Furthermore, regulation can have undesirable side effects and be ripe for abuse by powerful actors, public and private.

This Essay presents an alternative for fighting misinformation that avoids many pitfalls of regulation: truth bounties. We develop a contractual mechanism that would enable individuals, media, and others to pledge money to support the credibility of their communications. Any person could claim the bounty by presenting evidence of the falsity of the communication before a dedicated body of private arbitrators. Under the system we envision, anyone consuming information on the internet would know immediately if a given communication had a bounty attached, whether the communication had been challenged, and whether the challenge succeeded or failed. As John Stuart Mill recognized, we can trust our grasp of the truth only by putting it to the fire of challenge. Truth bounties open the challenge to all.

Keywords: fake news, misinformation, disinformation, defamation, freedom of speech, marketplace of ideas, truth bounty, Section 230, First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Arbel, Yonathan A. and Gilbert, Michael, Truth Bounties: A Market Solution to Fake News (August 30, 2022). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2022-61, Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2022-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4204862

Yonathan A. Arbel

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Michael Gilbert (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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