Assassination Markets Have Appeared on Decentralized Betting Platform Augur

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An article published by CCN today has drawn attention to perhaps one of the most controversial news stories to hit the cryptocurrency world: Popular decentralized predictions market platform Augur is now taking bets on whether or not United States President Donald Trump will be assassinated by the end of the year. Earlier in the day, Augur users had estimated the likelihood of Trump’s assassination at 5%.

“This market exists, and, though not the most popular bet on Augur, more than 50 shares have been traded on [Trump’s assassination] as of the time of writing,” reads the CCN report. “Similar markets, moreover, exist for a number of other public figures, allowing users to gamble on whether 96-year-old actress Betty White and U.S. Senator John McCain — who has been diagnosed with brain cancer — will survive until Jan. 1, 2019.”

The controversial bets taking place on Augur have already led some dApp browers to filter Augur’s content from bettors. However, these ‘death bets’ are still easily accessed through uncensored networks.

A tremendous amount of debate has begun within the cryptosphere as to what the appropriate response is to the controversial bets. Death markets are illegal globally; however, given Augur’s decentralized platform, it isn’t clear who is responsible for managing its gambling content.

Obvious concerns are arising that a large enough bet placed on the death of a public figure might lead to an actual assassination as a means for profit. Indeed, on places like the darkweb, there are already markets for hired hit-men.

Despite this, many Augur supporters contend that the developers should not be held responsible for any content posted on the network, regardless of its ethical implications. In the minds of many Augur supporters, protecting the decentralized free-market rights of users must be upheld at all costs.

At this point, even if Augur’s developers wanted to take action, it may be too late.

“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.”

Despite Augur developers no longer having control of the platform, they may still be liable for the platform’s content—given the fact that bets were already placed on President Trump’s assassination prior to the developers burning their ‘kill switch’ (no pun intended).

With no clear course of action left in sight, only time will tell what will happen with Augur’s death markets. Even greater questions now remain as to the seriousness of these types of bets and whether government intervention may be required. However, with Augur’s open-source design, the platform can easily be forked, rendering any lasting shutdown of death markets impossible.

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