“Philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed 18th century institutions are founded upon three pillars: the court system, the postal service and uncensored newspapers. The postal service and delivery of news have already been dramatically changed by the internet and other technology. Crowdjury is a step towards revolutionizing the court system.”
Federico Ast is a social entrepreneur and the founder of Crowdjury, an online platform that crowdsources judicial proceedings, including the filing of complaints, evaluation of evidence, trial and jury verdict. It is designed to reach a true verdict for each case quickly and at minimal cost, with the aim of making justice affordable and accessible for all.
How It Works: Using an online platform to promote transparent justice
Crowdjury is uncommonly innovative, forward-thinking, and has the potential to change the way we think about justice in the future. To utilize the platform, a Crowdjury user begins by filing a complaint. This could be any wrongdoing, from breaching a contractual agreement to instances of bribery or other corruption. Once a report is filed, the initial witness uploads evidence (documents, photos, etc.) into a secure online vault. Other witnesses can also contribute evidence. Self-selected experts from the crowd review the evidence and check the facts to confirm whether the evidence appears legitimate. From there, the trial takes place online and is broadcasted to the public. Any user can interrogate the defendant and comment on the evidence. A collective jury of randomly selected users decides whether or not the defendant is guilty. At the conclusion of the case, the initial whistleblower, the experts, and the crowdsourced jury are rewarded in Bitcoin, and the jury decision is recorded in the blockchain (watch this short video to understand what that means), where it is fully auditable.
You may be wondering about enforcement or ramifications of a guilty verdict on Crowdjury. Of course, having a guilty verdict recorded in the blockchain would be damaging to an individual’s personal or commercial brand, but enforcement extends beyond that. Sharing economy platforms (think: AirbnB and Uber) are becoming commonplace, and Crowdjury is a tool that could help maintain justice in that type of transaction. Imagine a form of “smart contracting”, in which a platform for business transactions could be linked to Crowdjury, and any transaction automatically cancelled and refunded following a guilty verdict. Even national, state and local governments could incorporate Crowdjury into their own processes in order to reduce costs and increase transparency. The idea of enforceable, online justice is hard to imagine, but that reality may not be as far off as we think.
If you’re unconvinced that this type of service is needed around the world, consider this scenario: A small business owner in Brazil is launching a new product and needs web design support from a freelance designer. The business owner finds a contractor in Gautemala, and they agree on both a price and the anticipated work product. At the end of contract period, the contractor in Guatemala has produced a website that is poor quality and does not meet the terms of the original agreement. The business owner requests a refund, but is denied. What can they do? If many cases, the answer is very little, if anything. Even in national business contexts, resolving a business contract dispute is a burden. According to this World Bank data, a commercial contract dispute in Singapore takes approximately 150 days to resolve, with a cost of about 26% of the claim, and that’s the best ranked country. In the lowest ranked countries, the time required may be over 1,000 days with a cost valued at more than 100% of the original claim. Often, it’s not worth the effort.
If that’s what happens on a domestic level, imagine international business disputes. That is prohibitively complex and difficult to navigate, especially for micro, small, and medium business owners who do not have the budget to pay for expensive legal fees. Multiple entrepreneurs featured on Impact Beacon have encountered that challenge (take the example of Victoria and her difficulties finding a quality manufacturer for Chipsafer). This challenge continues to be true despite the fact that cross-border business agreements are increasingly common due to access to the internet, virtual reality, and other remote work enablers.
The backstory: Sparking a new vision of justice for all
Federico is originally from Argentina, where he studied economy and philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires. After several years reporting on business management on Materiabiz (a website Federico created within the Argentinian publication Clarin), he went on to pursue a PhD at the IAE Business School in Argentina. There, Federico studied the way culture evolves and how that impacts the perceptions and rules governing business.
Federico is a member of the “Net Party” in Buenos Aires, and believes in the internet as a way to democratize relations and increase transparency in politics. In December 2014, he met with a small group of like-minded friends to share his idea of a “whistleblowing platform” where people could issue alerts about corruption. Just one month later, Alberto Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound in his Buenos Aires home. Nisman was planning to go in front of a congressional hearing to accuse then President Cristina Kirchner and foreign minister Hector Timerman of shielding Iranian officials implicated in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish charities federation office. You may remember when that story broke and made international headlines.
With renewed enthusiasm, Federico and a small team–including Alejandro Sewrjugin, Gonzalo Stupenengo, Francisco Gomez Salaverri, Juan Cruz Di Maio and Elio Oses–began to develop the idea that became Crowdjury. It has now been just over one year, and Federico’s idea is gaining momentum. They were invited to present at a Bitcoin conference in Amsterdam, and Crowdjury is a case study in Don Tapscott’s new book, The Blockchain Revolution. Federico was contacted by scholars from Stanford, MIT and more, all of whom were intrigued by his idea. Most recently, Federico and his team won an innovation award and received funding to travel to Silicon Valley to develop Crowdjury further. I certainly won’t be surprised if we start hearing a lot more about Federico’s project in the near future.
Words for the World
Federico’s near-term goal is to understand more about Crowdjury’s potential early adopters. He thinks Crowdjury has immediate application in academia as well as in disputes related to gaming communities, car insurance, and software patents, but an idea like this could be applied extensively.
What are your pain points as a consumer right now? How would you utilize a tool like Crowdjury? Share your ideas in a comment, or reach out to Federico directly at email@example.com or via LinkedIn.