Julian Fell

Cash For Corrections

Tech companies sometimes offer something called a “bug bounty” program. It’s basically the author of a software product making a formal promise.

If someone finds a bug or security hole, they will be paid a reward.

It’s a great practice, creating an incentive for researchers and hackers to find and disclose flaws in the software. It also incentivises the business to build a product with less bugs.

Some big names like Google, Apple and Facebook have long running programs that have paid out millions of dollars over a number of years. Averting a serious security flaw is almost priceless for these big tech companies, both in terms of reputational and actual cost, so these programs are worth every dollar to them.

Recently, I came across a different angle on this idea. Someone called Jeremy Arnold has put his own spin on the traditional bug bounty. His Cash For Corrections Policy offers monetary rewards for corrections. He makes a strong case for why it should be (and probably will eventually be) more common in the journalism industry.

Its so easy to spread plausible-sounding lies on the internet that the facts are often lost in the deluge of garbage and fiction. A policy like this signals a serious commitment to correctness and truth. Similarly to a bug bounty, it both incentivises the writer to be more diligent and the reader to correct mistakes.

If more writers and organisations operated in this way, it seems to me that the media ecosystem would be significantly healthier. Maybe this could be a first step towards media organisations taking action against misinformation and regaining the public’s trust.