Assassination Politics
July 25, 2018 6:28 AM   Subscribe

First Assassination Markets Appear on Prediction Platform Augur - "Now that assassination markets are here, a fierce debate has emerged in cryptocurrency circles over what — if anything — should be done about them, as well as who should be held responsible for these clearly-illegal death markets."
posted by kliuless (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
a fierce debate has emerged in cryptocurrency circles over what — if anything — should be done about them

Nothing should or needs to be done about them because they're idiotic technolibertarian wankery. People betting on "dead pools" (note for the youngins: the word predates the character!) has happened for millennia. This is just yet another example of an old idea "but on the blockchain!"
posted by Sangermaine at 6:42 AM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Hated In The Nation, indeed. Private deadpools, even celebrity deadpools based on their likelihood of ODing or whatever, are one thing. Assassination markets accessible to everyone are something else. Anything which literally creates a fiscal incentive to kill someone should Not Be A Thing, libertarian techno-wankery or no. It is just wrong and bad and evil.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:45 AM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Anything which literally creates a fiscal incentive to kill someone should Not Be A Thing, libertarian techno-wankery or no. It is just wrong and bad and evil.

*Sighs, starts ripping up the plans for my tontine*
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2018 [22 favorites]


Well, okay grumps, but can't a deadpool be the same thing as an assassination market, with one paper-thin degree of deniability?
posted by rokusan at 6:49 AM on July 25, 2018


(I agree assassination markets are a terrible, gross, wrong idea, but there are plenty of things that create financial incentives to kill people including but not limited to inheritances, life insurance, and I guess like salary in a very small company with strict regulations about how people are paid, although I guess I think some these are bad too)
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Hm. Tychotesla sure works fast.
posted by rokusan at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Is there one for Ryan Reynolds?
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 6:51 AM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is there one for Ryan Reynolds

I would not put it past him to bet on himself for teh lulz
posted by Damienmce at 6:56 AM on July 25, 2018


Humans of late capitalism, indeed.
posted by JohnFromGR at 7:09 AM on July 25, 2018


The Art of War ranks assassination as greatly preferable (in terms of impact to one's country and people) to any kind of actual war making.

Had Sun Tzu not heard about Archduke Franz Ferdinand?
posted by thelonius at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2018 [22 favorites]


Assassination markets accessible to everyone are something else.

I don't think they are, or the difference is just one of scale. It doesn't create any new incentives that don't already exist. The sort of person who would kill, say, Trump, is going to do so regardless of any bet. Even calling these things a "market" is wrong, as nothing is being bought and sold. It's just going to be morons making morbid bets, which they already do.

The OP calls them "clearly-illegal", but they're likely not illegal, or not as far as they don't violate gambling laws. Just guessing someone is going to die in some way on some day is not the sort of specific imminent threat of harm that would violate laws about threatening people with harm. It's not illegal to say you want someone to die, or saying you think they will die. I could take bets that Elon Musk is going to drown on October 17, 2018 during his attempt to put those Thai kids back in the cave so he can rescue them, that's not a crime. Jim Bell went down because he had a history of anti-government nonsense and harassment so that him proposing such markets can be seen as part of his larger pattern of legitimately threatening and dangerous behavior. Your average user making bets on some site doesn't have that.

As I said above, this is just libertarian fantasy, in the same way that some of the True Believers are absolutely certain that cryptocurrency is the dagger that will pierce the heart of the Statist Beast and governments are terrified of it, when the reality has been that governments are either largely indifferent to it or have easily covered it with the same regulations that govern other currency or security activity.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oh, ye ghods, this timeline...
posted by ocschwar at 7:30 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Had Sun Tzu not heard about Archduke Franz Ferdinand?

The Black Hand got most of what they wanted after 1918, no?
posted by pompomtom at 7:40 AM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Nothing should or needs to be done about them because they're idiotic technolibertarian wankery

They're an old thing that has at time s before been a severe old problem.

It's all fun and games until the money is enough to get someone to murder a politician, poison a horse, bribe a referee, or kneecap a figure skater.
posted by ocschwar at 7:53 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this isn't a fun, harmless game in the information age. Take two seconds to think about the nature of doxxing. When celebrity and notoriety are determined by 'going viral' this shit could get real very quickly. That dentist who shot Cecil the lion might have been a rich prick, but he hardly deserved to lose his job. Now if you think that's arguable, imagine the future where he gets killed.

Imagine some jackass putting up odds on Anita Sarkeesian 'for the lulls.' Then imagine a couple million jackasses of all stripes putting up bets. Then imagine a couple of well connected jackasses arranging the death and making a tidy little payday.

Imagine some jackass putting up your cousin or niece or nephew following an intense, sudden internet celebrity.

I've asked a lot of people whether or not they think crypto-currency is inherently less moral than other currencies, and I usually get a blank stare, like that aspect of the story never really occurred to them. The smarter folks will say, "All money can be used for bad things." But no other money is MADE for criminal transactions and insta-laundering. And I'm reeeeally surprised that people don't see how quickly it becomes a problem.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:36 AM on July 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


There's a German book about an old rich woman showing up to a poor town and promises an ungodly amount of money for everyone if a certain citizen (her ex-lover, I think) is killed. Everyone keeps telling the guy he's safe and that no one would ever. All the while people are buying things on credit.

Can anyone place that one for me?

posted by es_de_bah at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


es_de_bah, I remember watching a film based on that in college -- I think the film is Hyenas and the source is The Visit, a play by a Swiss dramatist named Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:49 AM on July 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I was just reading this deleted blog post from last week, by former CIA Analyst & Osama Bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer, and was wondering what to make of it...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:05 AM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


That dentist who shot Cecil the lion might have been a rich prick, but he hardly deserved to lose his job. Now if you think that's arguable, imagine the future where he gets killed.

There is a pretty wide gap between people not wanting to use his services as a dentist anymore and murdering him.

From a follow up article a year later; Far from keeping a low profile, the flash 56-year-old was seen taking a brand new Porsche Cayenne Turbo worth $120,000 for a spin. That guy seems to be doing just fine without your concern.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:17 AM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


ActingTheGoat, I wasn't expressing concern for him, per se. In fact, I kinda meant hardly as in 'barely.' Like how a plane hardly hits a mountain. But that's really not the point. That's why I followed up with a sympathetic example.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:46 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm no blockchain expert (a point of pride)...

But a couple of thoughts about this.

First, on the original article:
Moreover, it’s not too difficult for users to create proxy markets that avoid key-word filtering. “Will Donald Trump still be president at the end of 2018?” is close enough to “Will Donald Trump be killed in 2018?” to attract the same type of gambler.
I assure you that the bet 'Will Donald Trump still be president at the end of 2018?' is a bet regarding impeachment (/'resigning'), not assassination, so that's a stupid example, CNN.

After insulting CNN's intelligence, let me take a stab at Augur:
However, up until about 12 hours ago, Augur’s developers possessed a “kill switch” that could lock up all contracts on the network in the event of a critical bug and save the platform from falling prey to another DAO hack situation. Because two weeks had passed since the platform’s launch without such an incident, they transferred ownership of the kill switch to a burn address, meaning that no single entity can control the network.
So two weeks of not finding a bug and you're confident there is no bug, eh? Did you announce that killswitch previously, because if you did, why the heck wouldn't someone how had found the bug wait the two weeks. It feels like ya'll possess the strategic insight of a ten year old.

Again, I know nothing about Augur, but people seem pretty confident about the anonymity of a technology that is literally an immutable ledger. Deanonymizing bitcoin isn't as hard as folks have been pretending it is.

Finally, it's kind of hard to take that mashable article seriously when it starts off with "The future of the blockchain is dark." (leaving aside that 'the blockchain' incorrrectly implies it's a single entity). Bitcoin has already been used to pay for assassination attempts directly (allegedly), hard drug markets, and gun sales; the blockchain markets have been 'dark' for some time now.
posted by el io at 10:30 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think the issue here is that while deadpools have existed for ages, the idea of a mass distributed deadpool, combined with stronger controls on anonymity lead to a greater likelihood of someone actually ending assassinating someone (as opposed to just a roll of the dice/statistical inference).

If you can create a completely anonymous method of betting and distribution of proceeds, then yeah, in theory it could more easily lead to an assassination compared to a plain old school dead pool. A regular deadpool has people know who the payees are somehow. This is a disincentive to, you know... actually pulling the trigger. Anonymize that and well. Hey... CHACHING and nobody's the wiser. Add a large enough betters and you distribute your risk even more so (literally risk of getting busted, not minimizing financial risk). Everyone then becomes partially complicit in said murder by acting as chaff...
posted by symbioid at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2018


But on preview, I agree with el io, blockchain is not anonymous (nor does it really claim to be). If Augur attempts to offer the maximum anonymity, then indeed, my above statment stands, but if it's just a fucking blockchain type scenario with no stronger privacy protections, then yeah, hot air...
posted by symbioid at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2018


I can't believe we seem to be unaware of the fact that abortion doctors, as well as women, and victims of white supremacy in general get assassinated pretty regularly.

No, that's precisely my point. People already do targeted killings for all sorts of reasons. I don't think this silly nonsense is going to increase the risk or incentivize anyone who wasn't already inclined to do something, because those kind of killings are carried out by people for non-monetary reasons. Jim Bell, the creator of all this, is a perfect example: he was already a dangerous nut engaged in anti-government activities, the "assassination market" was just an extension of his existing violent ideology.

The idea that this poses any extra threat rests on the assumption that there is a pool of people out there ready and willing to attempt assassinations but who lack any motivation (religious, political, etc) to do so, but would do so for the chance that one of these things might pay them for it. I don't think such a group realistically poses any greater risk than the right-wing terrorists who we already know for certain pose a risk because they keep killing people.

Imagine some jackass putting up odds on Anita Sarkeesian 'for the lulls.' Then imagine a couple million jackasses of all stripes putting up bets. Then imagine a couple of well connected jackasses arranging the death and making a tidy little payday.

Imagine some jackass putting up your cousin or niece or nephew following an intense, sudden internet celebrity.


Unfortunately, Sarkeesian and Internet flash celebrities already receive death threats. Would this appreciably increase their risk?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2018


I don't think such a group realistically poses any greater risk than the right-wing terrorists who we already know

Really? Do you say this with any specific knowledge of the global mercenary market? 'Cause that seems like the relevant information to make such a claim.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 11:51 AM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Didn't someone already do this in the first wave of bitcoin/darknet shit?

(They did, it's on the Wikipedia page for "Assassination Market." It didn't amount to much, then - I don't know what the deal is with the platform, here, so I don't know if this is more plausibly going to be a thing.)
posted by atoxyl at 11:57 AM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, Sarkeesian and Internet flash celebrities already receive death threats. Would this appreciably increase their risk?

If the magic crypto pixie dust these markets use worked as they claim, and if the participants weren't utter morons (see Dread Pirate Roberts, Paul Manafort and other examples of bad security practices leading to their downfall), yes, it would increase their risk, considerably.

While there is a noticeable negative correlation between people's hostility towards Anita Sarkeesian and their competence at anything outside of speed-tweeting, this is not something on which she should stake her safety and well being.
posted by ocschwar at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, Sarkeesian and Internet flash celebrities already receive death threats. Would this appreciably increase their risk?

Sangermaine, I'd say yes. This is exactly the point! The practice would incentivize actually going through with death threats born out of viral culture. Take something that already grows like fungus and then make it potentially profitable. Damn straight I think that's going to lead to trouble. Sprinkle on some Russian-level hacking for fun if you want. It's not like there aren't people who know how to work these systems.

I'm certainly looking at the worst possible outcome of this. But I think that's reasonable whenever money is involved. Even if it took a couple decades, this will almost certainly go bad if it isn't considered or made illegal.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:02 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


"if the participants weren't utter morons (see Dread Pirate Roberts, Paul Manafort and other examples of bad security practices leading to their downfall)"

In both of those examples there were literal teams of highly resourced law enforcement folks (with access to judges to get warrants) that had already focused in on them.

The thing about practicing good opsec is that if there is a resourced opponent out to get you (more so if they have government powers) it only takes a single mistake to fuck you up. Certainly there are other examples of bad opsec being the downfall of someone who wasn't under law enforcement scrutiny before their downfall... But if someone were to engage in a blockchain related political assassination, it's fair to say that there would be an obscene amount of law enforcement resources dedicated to taking the responsible parties down.
posted by el io at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2018


Who needs hacking? Just have the Russians (or whoever) pour cryptocurrency into the market of whatever people they want eliminated, and wait for someone to collect their "bet".
posted by fings at 1:51 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


it's fair to say that there would be an obscene amount of law enforcement resources dedicated to taking the responsible parties down

Just remember that if a sovereign state is willing obfuscate their identity, that might be adequate security for them to go ahead and do it anyway, as fings pointed out.
posted by ocschwar at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Very nicely linked post, kliuless.
posted by doctornemo at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2018


But no other money is MADE for criminal transactions and insta-laundering.

I am far from certain this statement is consistent with the actual history of how and why money came to be...
posted by solotoro at 5:36 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, Sarkeesian and Internet flash celebrities already receive death threats. Would this appreciably increase their risk?

I should add that Anita Sarkeesian is the perfect example of why this is horrible, because she does not have guards round the clock, meaning that her bounty would not have to rise very far to be acted upon, and the dogs baying for her blood could raise up a pretty big bounty.
posted by ocschwar at 9:00 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


As Crypto Meets Prediction Markets, Regulators Take Notice - "creating a way to bet on the value of goods in the future is basically the definition of a type of derivative known as a binary option, yet Augur hasn't sought approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to list such contracts... a contract listed on the site may be worth watching. It asks, 'Will the Forecast Foundation face an enforcement action from the SEC or CFTC before Dec. 21, 2018 for hosting unregulated derivatives markets?' " (via)
posted by kliuless at 6:19 AM on July 27, 2018




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