FTC Offers $50,000 Prize to End Robocalls

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Economists have long touted the value of prizes to motivate innovation. One of the most famous recent examples is the X Prize, a $10 million prize that was promised to the first private team that could safely launch a three-passenger craft 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. The prize was eventually won in 2004 by Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne.

Today, the FTC announced a prize for a far more worthy cause:

After years of using traditional regulatory tools to block billions of illegal marketing calls, the FTC says, the agency is launching a public contest in search of new technical solutions.

The prize: $50,000.

….The agency will be taking entries between Oct. 25 and Jan. 17. Judges will score proposals based on workability (worth 50 percent), ease of use (worth 25 percent) and the idea’s potential for a wide rollout (worth 25 percent). Applicants can submit ideas to block pre-recorded marketing calls on landlines, cellphones or both.

Hooray! Seriously. I don’t know if this will work, and I don’t know if $50,000 is enough, but this is a great idea. It’s exactly the kind of thing that might prompt some unappreciated genius to come up with a harebrained idea that’s just crazy enough to work. We should do more stuff like this.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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