FTC Offers $50,000 Prize to End Robocalls

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.