The Game Theory of Snitches

From Vsauce2.

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From career mafia rats to kindergarten tattle-tales, no one likes a snitch. Every society reviles the informant — but why? And how can game theory analysis reveal what’s actually happening when society rewards a snitch?

Despite teeming with serious problems, snitch culture is so deeply-engrained in law enforcement that it’s sentenced countless innocent people over centuries — including convicting men of murder when no one was even killed at all. Why does snitching go so wrong so often?

The truth is that everyone involved in the snitch system is playing their own game. Police are the game masters and the house never truly loses. Informants are engaged in a form of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, while outside actors resort to tactics like witness intimidation to win their own game within a game.

The result is a perversion of justice so severe that everyone ends up worse off — including the famously impartial blind bastion of justice.


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Prisoner’s Dilemma":

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Research and Writing by Matthew Tabor

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