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The Dark World of Cryptocurrency 'Assassination Markets'

Technology continues to develop in a dark direction with an app recently launched by the nonprofit Forecast Foundation. The Augur protocol allows users to create decentralized prediction markets where people can bet cryptocurrency on the outcomes of a variety of questions.

This past week users were able to bid on whether or not President Trump would be assassinated in July 2018, raising questions about whether such "assassination markets" could lead to actual assassination attempts.

And Trump is not alone. People are also betting on the deaths of Sen. John McCain, who's battling brain cancer; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; and actress Betty White, who has been the subject of a number of death hoaxes over the years.

Most of the markets have very few (if any) shares traded. In fact, nobody actually bet on Trump's assassination.

But it's likely that activity will increase as more people become aware of the platform. A market currently running shows shares traded in the millions.

Augur utilizes a distributed blockchain, a shared global digital ledger system used to securely record transactions, move value around, and represent property ownership. Augur describes itself as "a set of smart contracts" that can be deployed to the Ethereum blockchain, a decentralized platform that runs applications that run exactly as programmed, "without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference."

That infrastructure enables developers to create markets, store registries of debts or promises, move funds, and a number of other things, "all without a middleman or counterparty risk."

The Augur app allows people to predict just about anything, completely free from regulations or censorship. Current categories on the site include crypto, weather, agriculture, politics, sports, climate, medicine, finance, and a number of other topics.

One market predicts President Trump's chances of being impeached:

Under the Politics, USA category, you will find this market:

Market creators at Augur are charged a fee, payable in Etherium cryptocurrency. In order to help creators recoup their fees, they're allowed to charge a "creator fee" of up to 50 percent. Augur, not surprisingly, also gets a cut via "Reporting Fees" and "Settlement Fees," which are calculated using an off-Augur price feed.

Dan Robitzski explains at Futurism, Augur itself is not a prediction market, "it is a protocol for cryptocurrency users to create their own prediction markets."

The assassination prediction markets are particularly troubling. "All a would-be assassin has to do is stake a whole bunch of money on 'yes' and they’d make a fortune," Robitzski says.

"Via a distributed blockchain ledger, people could predict anything from political elections to the weather, and do so totally free of censorship from any regulatory body," he said. "That also makes it a great place for unethical bets — like those that predict whether a celebrity or politician will die this year."