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False information poses a threat to 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 social media. 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 Article 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 ifa given communication had a bounty attached, whether the communication had been challenged, and whether the challenge succeeded orfailed. 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.