Betting Against Page 3

Well well, this is interesting. The bookmaker Paddy Power have offered odds on a Change.org petition reaching 100,000 signatures. It’s 4/1 in September and 7/4 in October.

It will be interesting to see if this affects the rate at which people sign the petition. If it does, then we will see a new era of campaigning. Just as now, activists spend time trying to get re-tweeted by Stephen Fry, in the future Ladbrokes and Paddy Power may become targets of the same kind of secondary lobbying.

But there is more: there is a kind of open source game theory on offer here. If everyone in the country who agreed to sign the petition, while placing a £10 bet, we would all get paid for our social activism!

At the time of writing, the petition only has 26,000 signatures. So the conservative analyst would not favour September. However, we have seen in the recent past how social media and we interconnectivity it brings can have exponential effects. Remember how Claire Squires posthumously raised almost £1 million for the Samaritans.

I don’t know much about how bookies set their odds on certain outcomes, but participating in this particular ‘market’ seems odd. Unlike a sporting event, an election, or a financial exchange, there is no other person, group or team that can adversely affect the rate at which the figure in question rises. It’s not as if there is a counter petition, and the bookies are taking bets on a race between the two. Opponents of this campaign cannot marshal their own supporters in a comparable way. So the bet is simply about how quickly a political constituency can mobilise itself. I wonder if someone who knows more about this might comment?

I am entirely in favour of the petition, by the way. In my opinion, page 3 demeans and objectifies women. A formal ban on this kind of publication would be anti-free expression, but social pressure on an editor to make a particular decision is entirely right and proper.

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