Recently, Ben Pace wrote a well-intentioned blog post mostly based on complaints from 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees who 1) wanted more money, 2) felt socially isolated, and 3) felt persecuted/oppressed.

Of relevance, one has accused the majority of her previous employers, and 28 people of abuse - that we know of. 

She has accused multiple people of threatening to kill her and literally accused an ex-employer of murder. Within three weeks of joining us, she had accused five separate people of abuse: not paying her what was promised, controlling her romantic life, hiring stalkers, and other forms of persecution. 

We have empathy for her. Initially, we believed her too. 

We spent weeks helping her get her “nefarious employer to finally pay her” and commiserated with her over how badly they mistreated her. 

Then she started accusing us of strange things.

You’ve seen Ben’s evidence, which is largely the word of two people and a few misleadingly cropped screenshots. Below, we provide extensive evidence (contracts, recordings, screenshots, etc) demonstrating that the post’s claims are false, misleading, or are catastrophizing normal things. This post is a summary; we also include a ~200 page appendix of additional evidence. We also present a hypothesis for how Ben got so much wrong.

Two ways you can read this: 1) stop whenever you’re convinced because you’ve seen enough falsehoods that you no longer think their remaining claims are likely to be true, or 2) jump to the specific claims that are most important to you, and look at the evidence we provide for them. You can see summary tables of the key claims and evidence here, here, and here

Our request as you read on: consider this new evidence you haven’t seen yet with a scout mindset, and reflect on how to update on the accuracy of the original claims.

It’s messy, sorry. Given the length, we’re sure we’ve made mistakes - please do let us know. We’re very happy to receive good faith criticism - this is what makes EA amazing.

Finally, we want to note that we have a lot of empathy for Alice and Chloe. We believe them when they say they felt bad, and we present a hypothesis for what caused their negative emotions.

Short summary overview table

ClaimWhat actually happened
Alice claimed: they asked me to travel with illegal drugs.

- False. It was legal medicine - from a pharmacy. 

- Ben knew this and published it anyway.
Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice claimed: I was running out of money, so I was scared to quit because I was financially dependent on them (“[I] had €700 in [my] account”* etc.)

- Alice repeatedly misrepresented how much money she had. She actually had a separate bank account/business generating (according to her) ~$3,000 a month in passive income.

- Alice told us she was an independent business owner, so she either lied to Ben, Ben misled his readers about this, or she lied to us about the business.
Evidence/read more 

Chloe claimed: they tricked me by refusing to write down my compensation agreement

- False. We did write it down. We have a work contract and interview recordings. And when she realized this accusation was false, instead of apologizing, she tried to change the topic - “it’s not about whether I had a contract or salary.”*

- We told Ben we had proof, and he refused to look at it and published this anyway.
Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice claimed: they paid me next to nothing and were financially controlling

We were the opposite of “financially controlling”*:

- We gave her almost complete control over a ~$240,000 budget we had raised.

- We even let her choose her own pay.

  • She chose to pay herself an annualized ~$72,000 per year - more than anyone else at the org, and far more than the ~minimum wage she earned in previous jobs. 
  • This is more than most people make at OpenPhil, according to Glassdoor. 
  • This puts her in the top 1% of the world’s income. 
  • This doesn’t even include her business profits.

Evidence/read more 

Alice/Chloe claimed Nonlinear failed to pay them. Later, they denied ever claiming this.

- Alice/Chloe accused us many times of not paying them - a serious accusation. We proved this was false. 

- Ben tried to walk this back last minute, saying “I no longer believe this is true”*

- However, he didn’t remove all the references to this accusation - each one is proof that they were going around telling people this falsehood.

- Even our friends thought we didn’t pay Alice anything (due to the rumors that Alice spread).

- So they lied, got caught, and are now lying again by saying they never told the first lie.

- Instead of apologizing and questioning Alice/Chloe’s other claims based on them being caught telling him provably false and damaging information, Ben shifted the topic - “the real issue is about the wealth disparity between her and Emerson”*

Evidence/read more

Alice claimed: They refused to get me food when I was sick, starving me into giving up being vegan

False. People heard this and thought we were monsters. We ran around for days getting her food, despite all 3 of us being sick or injured. We also had vegan food in the house that she liked, which Kat offered to cook for her (but she declined the offer).

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Alice claimed: we were not able to live apart from them

- Strange, false accusation: Alice spent 2 of the 4 months living/working apart (dozens of EAs can verify she lived/worked in the FTX condos, which we did not live at)

Evidence/read more

Chloe claimed: they told me not to spend time with my romantic partner 

- Also a strange, false accusation: we invited her boyfriend to live with us for 2 of the 5 months. We even covered his rent and groceries.

- We were just about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely because it would make Chloe happy, but then Chloe quit.

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe claimed: we could only talk to people that Kat/Emerson invited to travel with us, making us feel socially dependent

- False. Chloe herself wrote the invite policy explicitly saying they were encouraged to invite friends/family.

- They regularly invited people who joined us (e.g. Chloe’s boyfriend joined for 40% of the time)

Evidence/read more

Alice claimed: they told me not to see my family, making me socially dependent and isolated

- Bizarre, false accusation given that Alice spent 1 of the 4 months with her family

Kat encouraged her to set up regular calls with her family, and she did.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice/Chloe claimed: I was paid $1,000 per month (and kept implying this was all she was paid, saying it was “tiny pay” or “low pay”)

- The $1k/month was a stipend on top traveling the world all-expenses-paid, which was the majority of the value (~$58k of the ~$70k estimated value of the compensation package)

- It’s not the same as a salary, but it’s the comp Chloe signed up for and we clearly communicated. And when Alice asked for pure cash, we said “sure” and even let her choose how much she paid herself.

- It’s also misleading. Imagine somebody goes to the EA Hotel and then loudly shouts, “they only paid me $100 a month”. The biggest thing the EA Hotel provides is room & board. 

Evidence/read more


Alice/Chloe painted a picture of poverty and isolation, which simply does not match the exotic, socially-rich lifestyle they actually lived.

Alice/Chloe were the opposite of isolated - here they’re living, co-working, and partying with with dozens of EAs in condos in the Bahamas. Chloe traveled the world all-expenses paid - the $1,000 stipend was a small part of her compensation package. This is not “next to nothing” for a recent uni grad, working for a charity, as an assistant.
The gang going for a hiking adventure with AI safety leaders. Alice/Chloe were surrounded by a mix of uplifting, ambitious entrepreneurs and a steady influx of top people in the AI safety space.
Campfire singalongs on a tropical beach under a moonlit sky. Smores, stories, laughter.
Alice, Chloe, and her boyfriend working in the pool. Chloe claimed we told her not to see her boyfriend, but we literally invited her boyfriend to live with us for 2 of the 5 months. We even paid his rent and groceries and were about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely.
The gang doing pool yoga. Later, we did pool karaoke. Iguanas everywhere.
Alice and Kat meeting in “The Nest” in our jungle Airbnb.

 

ClaimWhat actually happened
Alice: You didn’t pay me! 

- We paid Alice consistently on time and she herself often said “Thanks for paying me so fast!”

- Once she accused us of not paying but she just hadn’t checked her bank account

- Another time she accused us of not paying her for “many months” when she’d received her stipend just 2 weeks prior. 

- She said she had to “strongly request” her salary, when really, she just hadn’t filled out the reimbursement system for months

- We have text messages & bank receipts and she’s still telling people this.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Chloe claimed: I was expected to do chores around the house because I was considered low value

- This was part of her job - she was an assistant. We were very upfront, and have interview recordings showing she knew this before she accepted the job.

- Imagine applying to be a dishwasher, hating washing dishes, then writing a “tell all” about how you felt demeaned/devalued because the restaurant “expected” you to wash dishes.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Chloe: I felt like they didn’t value me or my time (she implied she spent all her time doing assistant work)

- Chloe spent just ~10% of her time on assistant work (according to her own time tracking), the rest was high level ops & reading

- We allocated 25% of her time to professional development (~$17,000 a year)

- This is basically unheard of for any job, much less an assistant.

- She got to read/develop any skills she wanted 2 hours a day (leadership, M&E, hiring, etc) - a dream to many EAs.

- Kat showed so much gratitude that Chloe actually asked her to stop expressing gratitude. She said it made her feel Kat only valued her for her work. So Chloe accuses us of both valuing her work too much and too little. 

- It’s not that Kat didn’t value Chloe’s assistant work, it’s that Chloe didn’t seem to value assistant work, so constantly felt diminished for doing it (despite having agreed to do it when we hired her)

- Base rate: ~50% of people feel undervalued at work.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4

Alice: Kat threatened my career for telling the truth

- False. Alice had spent months slandering Kat by spreading falsehoods that were damaging our reputation (see the numerous pages of evidence below).

- Kat reached out multiple times, trying to hear her side, share her own, and make some attempts at conflict resolution. Alice refused.

- However, despite being attacked, Kat had not defended herself by sharing the truth about what really occurred (which would have made Alice look very bad)

- Kat communicated to Alice: Please stop attacking me. I don’t want to fight. If you don’t stop attacking me, I’ll have to defend myself. I haven’t yet told the truth about what you did, and if I do, it will end your career (paraphrased)

       - Alice painted herself as the victim and Kat out as the attacker, despite Alice being the attacker for months, who had been harming Kat by telling lies.

- Why didn’t Kat defend herself? 

1) She felt compassion for Alice. She was clearly struggling and needed professional help, not more discord.

2) She was terrified of Alice. Alice had accused 28+ people of abuse - wouldn’t you be scared knowing that? She was worried Alice would escalate further. Which she did anyway.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Saying “if you keep sharing your side, I’ll share mine - and that will end your career” is unethical and retaliatory

- Everybody agrees that if somebody is spreading damaging falsehoods about you that it can be good and ethical to share your side and correct the record.

- If the truth would hurt the slanderer’s own career, you should still be able to share the truth

- In fact, warning the slanderer first is often preferable to going public with the truth without warning them - it at least gives them a chance to stop.

- The question is: did Alice spread falsehoods or “just share her negative experience”? (numerous pages of evidence below)

There’s a double standard here: if you share your experience and you’re lower status, that’s “brave”, but if you do the same thing and you’re higher status, that’s “retaliation”. This epistemic norm will predictably lead to inaccurate beliefs and unethical outcomes. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

This post is long, so if you read just one illustrative story, read this one

Ben wrote: “Before she went on vacation, Kat requested that Alice bring a variety of illegal drugs across the border for her (some recreational, some for productivity). Alice argued that this would be very dangerous for her personally.”

This conjures up vivid images of Kat as a slavemaster forcing poor Alice to be a cocaine smuggler, risking life in prison. Is it true? 

Parts of the story Alice didn’t share:

  • Kat requested Alice bring legal medicine from a pharmacy - specifically antibiotics and one pack of ADHD medicine - not illegal drugs. These medicines are cheap and legal without a prescription in other parts of Mexico we’d visited, and she was already going to a pharmacy anyway. 
  • After arriving, Alice learned that they require a prescription there. When she told Kat and Drew this, they both said “oh well, never mind!” - it wasn’t a big deal. But then Alice just went and got a prescription anyway.
Us asking Alice to pick up some antibiotics and one pack of ADHD medicine (which we thought didn’t need a prescription in Mexico. It turns out it does in some but not all states.) We say: don’t worry about it, take care of yourself. Alice just got a prescription anyway.
 

Alice never argued this would be “very dangerous for her personally”:

  • In direct contradiction of her story, thinking traveling with legal medicine would be too dangerous, she flew with psilocybin mushrooms for herself to Mexico.
  • Not only that, while in Mexico, she did an actual drug deal for herself - she went out and illegally purchased, then traveled internationally with, actual recreational drugs (cannabis), again completely contradicting her story.
  • In fact, Alice never told you that she traveled with actual illegal drugs - cannabis/LSD/psilocybin - for herself across most borders we know of. And Kat was the one warning her not to do that! For example, Alice bought psilocybin for herself just before flying out and Kat expressed concern about her traveling with that.
  • In contrast to her “I’m a sweet, innocent girl who would never take such legal risks as traveling with drugs” framing, Alice was literally an ex-drug dealer and manufacturer. She told us she used to make a lot of money growing and distributing marijuana and psilocybin, but she was smoking so much of her own product that she stopped making money. 

So, she traveled across both international borders with actually illegal drugs for herself on these flights, and accused us of asking her to travel with -- legal medicine.

Alice took a small request - could you swing by a pharmacy and grab some cheap antibiotics/ADHD medicine? - and she twisted it into a narrative of forcing her to risk prison as a drug mule, that had commenters rushing for their pitchforks. 

And it’s worse than that - Ben’s post implied that we largely agreed on the facts of the story, so people condemned us viciously in the comments! But he knew we didn’t agree - when he told us this story we literally laughed out loud because it was so absurd.

We shared much of this information with Ben - he knew it was legal medicine, not illegal drugs - yet he still published this misleading version. We were horrified that Ben published this knowing full well it wasn’t true. We told him we’d share these exact screenshots with him, but he refused to look at them.

It would be bad enough if Alice told this story to one person, but she was going around telling lots of people this! We were hearing from friends Alice started telling stories like this just minutes after she met them, completely unprompted. Saying that the only reason she wasn’t succeeding was because Kat was persecuting her, that we refused to pay her, forced her to do demeaning things, etc. 

Ben looked into this because Alice/Chloe spent 1.5 years attacking usand we didn’t defend ourselves by sharing our side. People only heard stories like the one above.

No wonder people treated us like lepers, disinvited us from events, etc. Can you imagine what that would feel like? For 1.5 years, I’ve lived with fear and confusion (“Why is she still attacking me?”), sleepless nights, fear of what Alice’s next attack might be (justified, apparently), and a sludgy, dark, toxic desolation in my chest at being rejected by my community based on false rumors.

The only thing that gave me hope during this entire thing was believing that EAs/rationalists are good at updating based on evidence, and the truth is on our side. 

What is going on? Why did they say so many misleading things? How did Ben get so much wrong?

Ben’s hypothesis - “2 EAs are Secretly Evil”: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells. (Ben said we're "predators" who "chew up and spit out" the bright-eyed youth of the community - witch hunter language.)

If what Alice and Chloe told Ben is true, then this hypothesis has merit. Unfortunately, they told him falsehoods. For instance, Alice falsely claims that she couldn’t live/work apart and yet did so for 2 of the 4 months.

Why would she say something so false that she must know is false?

Maybe they’re deliberately lying? We mostly don’t think so, because they wouldn’t keep lying about things we can easily disprove with evidence. Like, Chloe said we tricked her with a verbal contract when she knows we sent her a work contract and we recorded her interviews. So why would she say that?

Maybe they’re just exaggerating and trying to share an emotional truth? Like, Alice felt starved and uncared for, and she’s trying to share that by bending the truth (even though she knows that Kat offered to cook her food, and ended up going out to get her food even though Kat was sick also)?

The thing is, they bend the truth far beyond what anyone would consider normal. For example, with the “they starved me” thing, Alice told Drew she was “completely out of food” just one hour after Kat (also sick) had offered to cook her any of the vegan food in the house that Alice usually loved and ate every day. 

Kat reminding Alice about all of the vegan food in the house, which Kat offered to cook for her.
Alice, one hour later, says she’s “completely out of food”

This is quite extreme. And there are dozens of similar examples.

So what is going on? Below, we present relevant information to support an alternative hypothesis:

“2 EAs are Mentally Unwell”: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us.
 

Relevant mental health history

- Alice has accused the majority of her previous employers, and 28 people - that we know of - of abuse. She accused people of: not paying her, being culty, persecuting/oppressing her, controlling her romantic life, hiring stalkers, threatening to kill her, and even, literally, murder.

- They both told us they struggled with severe mental health issues causing extreme negative emotions for much of their lives. Alice said she’d had it for ~90% of her life. She told us that she’d been having symptoms just 4 months before joining us. But she told us then, as she tells people now, she’s totally better and happy all the time. 

- If she’s been suffering extreme negative emotions for most of her life, it could be that we caused the emotions this time. But it’s more likely a continuation of a longstanding issue.

- She was forced to spend a month in a mental hospital. Shortly after, while still getting her bachelor’s, Alice started advertising herself as a life coach to make money. She has offered herself to EAs as a “spiritual guru” claiming she has achieved “unshakeable joy”.

- During the period she started accusing us of strange things, she was microdosing LSD every day, only sleeping a few hours a night for weeks, speaking incoherently, writing on mirrors, etc.

- She, sadly, claimed to have six separate painful health issues. (When she’s in pain she seems to see ill intent everywhere.)

Relevant instances of acting erratically

1) Alice attempted to steal a Nonlinear project, one that she and 6 other people at Nonlinear had worked on for months. She locked us out of the project and was going around EA claiming it was solely her invention. We told her she could use it if she at least gave Nonlinear some credit for it - it would be insulting to all her colleagues who worked hard on it not to. She kept refusing to share any credit - not even a tiny mention.

2) Alice created a secret bank account and a separate organization (without telling us), and attempted to transfer $240,000 from our control despite being repeatedly told it was not her money and telling people she wasn’t sure if it was her money. However, we do not think she had malicious intent. Our best guess as to why she did this is that she was having an episode and lost touch with reality.

3) While at Nonlinear, Alice worked on a project. Then, weeks after she quit, she continued working on it without telling us, and then demanded we pay her for those weeks she worked after she quit.
4) While at Nonlinear, Alice asked Chloe to help her with a project. Then, weeks after they both quit, Alice demanded we retroactively pay Chloe extra money.

5) Alice repeatedly lied about getting job offers to try to extort more money out of us. That or else she made them up as a part of her pattern of delusions. She’s groundlessly claimed to have 4 fabricated job/funding offers that we know of. 
6) She also fabricated 6 serious falsehoods on her resume - that we know of.
7) She went around offering grants of our money and refused to even tell us who she offered them to, or how much. It was a nightmare. After weeks of trying to reason with her, we gave her a deadline to respond. She interpreted the deadline as abuse. We then found out that most of the money she’d offered to people was illegal for us to give (likely not on purpose).

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4

Key pattern: Alice/Chloe confuse emotions for reality

Example: Alice was saying we literally made her homeless - a very serious accusation. We reminded her of the proof that this was false, and she said “It doesn’t matter, because I felt homeless.”

But it really does matter. This is a key pattern of Alice/Chloe’s - they think that feeling persecuted/oppressed means they were persecuted/oppressed, even if they weren’t.

Evidence/read more  


Why share this? If we refute their claims point by point without explaining the patterns, it’s hard not to think “but they felt bad. Surely you did something bad.” There needs to be a plausible alternative hypothesis for why they felt oppressed.

This info is relevant because mental health issues, particularly having delusions of persecution, explain what happened better:

  • Hypothesis 1: actual persecution
  • Hypothesis 2: delusions of persecution

To support Hypothesis 2, we simply must share relevant mental health history.

Of course, just because somebody has frequent delusions of persecution doesn’t mean that they’re all false. We agree. That’s why this doc contains numerous pages of evidence to counter their unsupported claims.

And just because somebody has mental health issues doesn’t mean they’re less worthy of compassion. If they are mentally unwell, knowing that allows us to actually help them. If somebody is experiencing delusions, going after whatever “demon” they claim to see won’t actually help them. 

If you learn that someone has made many false accusations, which follow a similar pattern to their previous delusions, and many are quite implausible (e.g. hiring stalkers is a weird accusation), then those patterns are relevant. And if somebody was mentally unwell most of their life, then that’s a relevant explanatory factor for why they felt bad.


Ben admitted in his post that he was warned in private by multiple of his own sources that Alice was untrustworthy and told outright lies. One credible person told Ben "Alice makes things up." 

We are horrified we have to share all this publicly, but Ben, who refused to look at our evidence, left us no choice. We do not want Alice’s accusations to destroy yet more people’s lives and more drama is the last thing EA needs right now, so we do not intend to expand the scope of accusations in this post, but we think it’s important to share a flavor for Alice’s past with the specifics redacted. 

However, we want to make sure it’s clear, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the lives Alice has ruined.

Here is an illustration of how many people we know Alice has accused:

  1. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  2. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  3. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  4. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  5. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  6. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  7. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  8. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  9. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  10. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  11. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  12. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  13. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  14. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  15. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  16. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  17. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  18. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  19. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  20. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  21. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  22. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
     
  23. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [refusing to pay her, stalking her, toxic culture, making her do unethical/illegal things, assault and murder. Yes, she literally accused her former boss of murder.]
  24. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse, toxic culture, sexism]
  25. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse, toxic culture, doing illegal/unethical things, refusing to pay her]
  26. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [being a cult, toxic culture, doing illegal/unethical things]
  27. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse]
  28. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [child abuse, assault, threatening to kill her]

 

  1. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  2. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  3. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  4. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  5. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  6. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume

 

  1. Alice [____] involving [police]
  2. Alice [____] involving [police]
  3. Alice [____] involving [police]

Continuing the pattern, the only public writing I can find of hers outside of social media and the forum is her publicly accusing a person of persecution.

Within weeks of joining us, she accused five separate, unrelated people of abuse. This should have been a major warning sign, but we just thought she’d been unlucky. We hadn’t known her long enough yet to spot the pattern and we were trusting.

These are just the ones we know of from a very shallow investigation. How many would we find if we spent 6 months investigating her? Then we contacted each of these people she accused of abuse and only shared their side? What do they think of Alice?

What would they think if they heard that she was once again accusing a former employer of oppressing her?

We actually completely understand why Ben and most people believed her when she accused us of things - because we believed her too. Within just weeks of first arriving, she told us how:

  • Her current employer was refusing to pay her and she’d been waiting for months for payment. 
  • They had “unclear boundaries” and were disorganized and unprofessional. 
  • They promised her control of projects then reneged later.
  • Her previous employer was culty and unethical. 
  • Her boyfriend was trying to control her by pressuring her to stop practicing the type of poly she preferred (“no rules” relationship anarchy) 

And we just believed her, because 1) we didn’t hear the other side and 2) who lies about things like that?

Also, Alice is one of the most charming people we’ve ever met. She stares deeply into your eyes and makes you feel like the most special person, like you’ve been friends forever. It’s so easy to believe her when she says these people have been being mean to her for no reason. She believes it herself and makes you feel protective of her.

We ourselves were trying to help her get paid by her “evil employer who was refusing to pay her” and congratulating her for “escaping from her culty ex-employer”. 

And then she started accusing us of the same kinds of things.

Of course, she could be just very unlucky. But it’s very rare to be that unlucky. If one person is a jerk to you, then that person’s probably a jerk. If everybody’s “mysteriously mean” to you for “no reason” - she kept saying this - maybe it’s not the other people.

And anybody who knows her will notice that she appears to have endless stories of people “bullying/oppressing/mistreating” her, often for what seem to be strange reasons or no reason at all (e.g. she was “bullied” in university for “being too happy”. She almost got a kid expelled from school for this.)

Alice would randomly get texts saying “You ruined my life. I wish I had never met you.” Apparently Alice had destroyed that person’s marriage. She claimed to have done nothing wrong, as is her pattern.

We also wish we had never met Alice. She seems to hop from community to community leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake. 

Shortly after being forced to spend a month in a mental hospital, while still in university, Alice started advertising herself as a life coach to make money. She said she stopped because she’d ruined multiple peoples’ lives. At least, this is what she told us. 

It looks like she’s started up again. At a recent EAG she told people that she had figured out “unshakeable joy” years ago and offered to teach EAs. Just before she started accusing us of things that made no sense, she was again offering to be a “spiritual guru” to an EA in the Bahamas. She did not follow through because she spent the next months, according to her, “mentally all over the place”. 

In other words, during the same time she’s claiming she was miserable, subjected to the worst experience of her life, she was at the same time offering to teach EAs her secret to “unshakeable joy”.

Many people reached out to us privately after Ben released his article who were afraid to come to our defense publicly because it’s dangerous to defend a witch burning on a pyre lest ye be accused of being a witch yourself. Many EA leaders are quietly keeping their heads down since FTX, because visibility in EA has become dangerous. 

We had to redact quotes here because, as one person said, “I’m worried Alice will attack me like she’s attacking you.”

Alice has similarities to Kathy Forth, who, according to Scott Alexander, was “a very disturbed person” who, multiple people told him, “had a habit of accusing men she met of sexual harassment. They all agreed she wasn't malicious, just delusional.” As a community, we do not have good mechanisms in place to protect people from false accusations.

Scott wrote a post saying that some of Kathy's accusations were false, “because those accusations were genuinely false, could have seriously damaged the lives of innocent people.” 

Of note, we tried to handle this like Scott, who minimized what was shared in public “in order to not further harm anyone else's reputation (including Kathy's)”. This is why we avoided publicly saying anything for the last 1.5 years. Also, once we learned about her history of accusations, we were terrified of Alice, because… well, wouldn’t you be? 

Multiple people have actually recommended I get a restraining order on her. Unfortunately, given her previous behavior, it’s unlikely that would help.

Scott said: “I think the Kathy situation is typical of how effective altruists respond to these issues and what their failure modes are. … the typical response in this community is the one which, in fact, actually happened - immediate belief by anyone who didn't know the situation and a culture of fear preventing those who did know the situation from speaking out. I think it's useful to acknowledge and push back against that culture of fear.”

As Scott said “If someone says false and horrible things to destroy other people's reputation, the story is "someone said false and horrible things to destroy other people's reputation".”  

“Suppose the shoe was on the other foot, and some man (Bob), made some kind of false and horrible rumor about a woman…Maybe he says that she only got a good position in her organization by sleeping her way to the top. If this was false, the story isn't "we need to engage with the ways Bob felt harmed and make him feel valid." It's not "the Bob lied lens is harsh and unproductive". It's 'we condemn these false and damaging rumors.'"

We need to carefully separate two questions: 1) is Alice deserving of sympathy? and 2) did Alice spread damaging falsehoods? 

For 1) Yes, we feel sympathy for Alice. Seeing secret ill-intent everywhere must be horrible. We hope she gets professional help. 

But if she’s going around saying that we forced her to travel with illegal drugs, we starved her, we isolated her on purpose, we refused to pay her, and other horrible false things, then the story isn’t that she felt isolated or she felt scared, the story is that she told false and damaging rumors. 

And we need to not mix up our laudable compassion for all with our need to set up systems to prevent false accusations from causing massive harm. In addition to a staggering misallocation of the community’s time, Alice, Ben, and Chloe hurt me (Kat) so much I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I cried more than any other time in my life. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t type responses to comments. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. 

Why didn’t Ben do basic fact-checking to see if their claims were true? I mean, multiple people warned him?

In sum, Ben appears to have believed Alice/Chloe, unaware of their history, prematurely committed to the “2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis”, then looked exclusively for confirming evidence. 

Crucially, by claiming that they were afraid of retaliation, despite the fact that they’d been attacking us for 1.5 years without us retaliating, Alice/Chloe convinced him that he shouldn’t give us time to provide evidence, that he should just take them at their word. As a result, he shot us in the stomach before hearing our side.

His “fact-checking” seems to have been mostly talking to Alice and Chloe, Alice/Chloe’s friends, and a few outsiders who didn’t know much about the situation.

Imagine applying Ben’s process after a messy breakup: “I heard you had a bad breakup with your ex. To find the truth, I’m going to talk to your ex and her friends and uncritically publicly share whatever they tell me, without giving you the chance first to provide counterevidence, because they told me I shouldn’t let you. Also, I paid them a total of $10,000 before looking at your evidence, so it may be difficult to convince me I wasted all that time and money.”

One example of Ben’s bias: one source told Ben lots of positive things about us. How much of that did Ben choose to include? ~Zero. 

A few more examples: 

ClaimWhat actually happened
Ben implied: Kat/Emerson didn’t write things down because they’re dangerously negligent

Actually, when we heard this, we said “What?  Yes we did. Just give us time to show you.” (He did not.)

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: After my call with Kat/Emerson I sent over my notes. Emerson said “Good summary!” (implying Kat/Emerson largely agreed with the facts of the article) 

- We were horrified to see that Ben cut off the second part of Emerson’s statement - “Some points still require clarification” and “You don't want to post false things that if you'd waited a bit, you'd know not to include. This draft is filled with literally dozens of 100% libelous and false claims - and, critically, claims that we can prove are 100% false.”

- This was especially damaging because many people thought the story was complete, instead of just being one side. People were so angry at us for things “we admitted to” (we didn’t!)

Evidence/read more

Ben: these are consistent patterns of behavior, so you should avoid Nonlinear because of these patterns

- Ben was so committed to his hypothesis, he didn’t speak to any of the people who worked for us in the 1.5 years since Alice/Chloe left to see if any of these patterns were actual patterns. 

- 100% of them left overall positive reviews.

Evidence/read more

Ben: Alice was the only person to go through their incubator program

- False. Ben’s “fact-checking” appears to mostly have consisted of asking Alice/Chloe’s friends, he thought Alice was the only person we incubated. Actually, there were 6 others, 100% of whom reported a positive experience. He talked to 0 of them.

- Alice & Chloe knew this was false and did not correct it.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: Emerson’s previous company had a bad culture


 

- Actually, people liked working for Emerson. His anonymous Glassdoor ratings were similar to the 57th best place to work.
- Ben quoted a bunch of horrible Glassdoor reviews -- but they weren’t about Emerson. We refuted this in the EA Forum thread itself. Then we refuted it in another thread on LessWrong. Then we told Ben directly. Then a prominent EA told Ben directly, hours before posting, and finally he hastily made changes. 

- However, not only did he not apologize, despite the facts changing massively, he kept the vibe/conclusion the same. And still, after all this, he included false information!
- Looking exclusively for negative information will lead to predictably wrong conclusions. For example, look at these negative reviews of Google (“toxic”, “exploitative”, “poor salary”) - would you predict that 97% of employees said it was a good place to work? 

- Side note: the EA Forum, months later, banned someone for  sockpuppeting the original unsubstantiated gossip EA Forum thread (based on Alice/Chloe’s falsehoods) - the sockpuppets created even more false consensus.

Evidence/read more

 Acknowledging the elephant in the room: a number of reviewers advised us to at least point to the common hypothesis that Ben white-knighted for Alice too hard, given both their personalities and Alice’s background. We’ll leave the pointer, but don’t think it’s hugely appropriate to discuss further.

Longer summary table

Below you’ll find another longer summary. It’s not comprehensive - the full appendix correcting all the falsehoods (200+ pages) is here. We cover many things in the full appendix that aren’t linked to here.

It’s messy, sorry. We were originally going to literally go sentence by sentence to point out all the inaccuracies, then that got too complicated. There were just too many because Ben didn’t wait to see our evidence. Many claims are partially rebutted in different places and it’s hard to see the big picture.

Ben Gish galloped us by just uncritically sharing every negative thing he heard without fact-checking. Gish galloping means “overwhelming your opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. Each point raised by the Gish galloper takes considerably more time to refute or fact-check than it did to state in the first place, which is known as Brandolini's law.

Read on to consider which hypothesis seems more plausible:

2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers publicly, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells. (Ben said we're "predators" who "chew up and spit out" the bright-eyed youth of the community - witch hunter language.)

2 EAs are Mentally Unwell Hypothesis: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us.
 

ClaimWhat actually happened
“Chloe was only paid $1k/month, and otherwise had many basic things compensated i.e. rent, groceries, travel” Ben describes this as - “next to nothing” and “tiny pay” (they kept implying they were only paid $1,000, so many people walked away with that impression)

- We offered a compensation package: all-expenses-paid (jetsetting around the Caribbean) plus a $1,000 a month stipend on top, working for a charity, as a recent college grad. 

- We estimated this would be around $70,000, but there was never a plan to make it “add up”. It was simple: “We pay for everything - you live the same lifestyle as us.”

- This is “next to nothing”? What happened to EA?

  • This is more than Holden earned running GiveWell in year 3. 

- She was living what for many is a dream life. She was so financially comfortable she didn’t even have to think about money 

- She somehow turns this into blaming Emerson for her forgetting about her own savings. We don’t think she had to spend a penny of her stipend and 100% of it went into her savings. 

Base rate: even among workers who are overpaid, 94% are not completely satisfied. Everyone wants more money.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: I was paid next to nothing!

- Alice was in the top 1-0.1% of income globally - working for a charity! - yet she was paid “next to nothing”. 

- She was allowed to choose how much she got paid and she chose $72,000, annualized. She also had a separate business making, according to her, around $36,000 a year. That adds up to $108,000 annualized income.

- Even before she got the pay raise just 3 months into her job, her comp was $12k stipend, room, board, travel, and medical adding up to around $73k total per year, plus $36k per year from her business. That’s $109k total, living virtually the same lifestyle as us. 

- This was a huge increase in pay for her - her previous jobs were ~minimum wage.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: They asked me to help around the house even when I was sick. This is abuse!

She neglected to mention that 

  1. She was just a friend living rent-free at the time
  2. Everyone in the house was sick/injured 
  3. When she complained about having to help out, we said she didn’t have to

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s first story: I was packing and Kat/Emerson just sat there on their laptops, working on AI safety instead of helping

This was her job. She was explicitly hired to do “life ops” so that Kat and Emerson could spend more time on AI safety. She knew this before she took the job and we have interview transcripts proving it. 

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s second story: Emerson snapped at me

Emerson shouldn’t have done that. But also, Chloe snapped at Emerson sometimes too. It was a really stressful travel day for everybody. This was not an ongoing pattern and the only time we recall this happening. Kat checked in the next day and Chloe said she actually loved the chaos of traveling and it was just that she’d had a bad sleep the night before.

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s third story: Kat threw out all of my hard work right in front of me, showing that my work hours are worth so little

- Chloe got the wrong product and Kat just hadn’t told her till then because she was trying to protect her feelings since she’d worked so hard on it. Chloe knew this and still published this story.

- Chloe got so much appreciation from Kat that Chloe actually asked her to do it less.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: I had unclear work boundaries and was pressured into working on a weekend (implies this was a regular occurrence)

“My boss offered me an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caribbean island St. Barths, which required one hour of work to arrange the boat and ATV rentals (for me to enjoy too). But it was one hour on a weekend, so I complained, and it never happened again.”

Evidence/read more

Chloe: I was put into complex situations and told I could do it

- This is not actually bad

- We said in the job ad that you would be a good fit if "It’s hard to phase you. You like the challenge of tackling complex problems instead of feeling stressed out about them" 
- Complex situations she herself cites: ordering a taxi, asking for a ride, packing suitcases.

- This is some of the best public evidence of her being mentally unwell. These are not overwhelming tasks for most people.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: they told me not to talk to locals!

Strange accusation. She asked “How can I increase my impact?” and we said, “you might try spending less time with random bartenders and more time with all the high-level EAs Kat introduced you to”. 

She continued to talk to locals all the time she was with us, which was totally fine by us. 

Evidence/read more

Alice: the Productivity Fund ($240,000) was mine

- We have in writing in multiple places that Alice was the project manager of the Productivity Fund, a project under Nonlinear. 

- We never did anything to make her think it was hers. She was still attending Nonlinear weekly meetings. We were still reimbursing her for expenses. We never sent her the money. We never sent her a grant agreement. We told her to not make a separate bank account for the money (she did anyway in secret). We threw a party and toasted her promotion (not grant or new charity) in front of many people. We told her if she wanted to do something outside of the scope of the project, she’d have to get our permission. Chloe, our operations manager, was handling all of her ops. 

- The only thing she has to show it was “hers” is her word, where she remembers a conversation very differently than Emerson or Kat. 

- This is one of at least 4 separate times we know of where she’s said she was offered money/employment when she wasn’t. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Alice/Chloe complain about “unclear boundaries” as if we kept them unclear as part of a nefarious plot.

If they wanted clear boundaries, they should have applied to Bureacracy Inc, not a tiny nomadic startup with a tiny budget. Our job ad said to expect “flexibility, informality” and “startup culture”.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: A tiny startup with a tiny budget did very little accounting!

- Chloe was literally hired to do accounting

- We did all of the accounting that we are legally and practically required to do, to the best of our knowledge

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: I gained no professional advancement from my 5 months there!


 

A strange accusation given that:
1) She landed a highly competitive ops job at a top EA org just ~2 months after leaving, despite being a recent college grad with no other ops experience outside of Nonlinear.
2) We let her read whatever she wanted for 2 hours a day (paid) to advance her career (this is 25% of the workday, so that’s like us investing $17,000 a year in her professional growth)

Evidence/read more

Alice: I couldn’t work for months afterward, I was so upset. 

- We have multiple text messages of her telling us that she’d been working that entire time. She told us she hadn’t even taken weekends off. 

- Perhaps relevant: she was trying to get more money from us by saying she’d continued working. But when talking to Ben, she’d get money saying that she hadn’t worked. 

- Either way, she lied to Ben or she lied to us. 

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe: Emerson told us stories of him being a shark

- Emerson shared stories about how he almost died in shark attacks to help Alice/Chloe defend themselves against shark attacks. They then painted Emerson as a shark. 

- A different Nonlinear team member heard the same stories, but spent weeks taking notes and was grateful!

Evidence/read more

Alice: I got constant compliments from the founders that ended up seeming fake.

Strange accusation. Alice was in a dark place and interpreted compliments as evidence that Kat/Emerson were secretly evil.

Evidence/read more

Alice: Emerson said, "how much value are you able to extract from others in a short amount of time?" - he openly advocates exploiting people!

He said “to have productive conversations, ask good questions to maximize learning/value per second”

Evidence/read more

Chloe: I was pressured into learning to drive

- Chloe was an enthusiastic consenting adult for the independence it gave her (“I was excited to learn how to drive”)

- She regularly drove on her own for fun

- She was told many times that she didn’t have to drive if she didn’t want to. We’d just pay for Ubers for her. She always insisted she did. 

- We spent 1 hour a day for 2 months patiently teaching her in parking lots. She had tons of supervised practice. 
- She was about to go home to get her license

- Ben said she risked “substantial risk of jail time in a foreign country” (sounds terrifying). False, it was just a $50 fine, the same amount you’d be fined for jaywalking (we told him this. The article is filled with falsehoods he refused to correct).

- She once decided to stop driving. She didn’t even tell Kat/Em because it was so not a big deal. She just told Drew, and he was like “cool”. She started driving around a week later because she missed driving. Drew didn’t talk to her about it and Em/Kat didn’t even know so there was no pressure to start again.
- Ben says she had a “minor collision”, framed to seem scary/serious, but she just scraped a pole driving slowly in a parking lot.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: Alice/Chloe are “finally” speaking out. They couldn’t speak out for fear of retaliation. and didn’t want anyone to know until.

- False. Alice/Chloe spent the last 1.5 years telling many people in EA, which seriously damaged Nonlinear's reputation. 

- Chloe and Alice have been attacking us that whole time - without us retaliating against them! They report being worried about us hiring stalkers, doing spurious lawsuits, or otherwise legally dubious actions. None of those things happened.

Evidence/read more 

Ben: 12 years ago in a dispute Emerson used “intimidation tactics”

- Someone tried to steal Emerson’s company, throwing his 25 employees on the street, with a legal loophole. Emerson said he would countersue and actually share his side (he hadn’t). Ben frames this as Emerson is the evil attacker, not the defender. Everything Emerson does is “intimidation” tactics, it doesn’t matter if he’s the one getting knifed in the chest. 

- This is another instance of the double-standard: somebody is allowed to sue Emerson & share their side, but if Emerson does the same, Ben frames it as unethical and "retaliatory". 

Evidence/read more, evidence #2

Ben: “I think standard update rules suggest not that you ignore the information, but you think about how bad you expect the information would be if I selected for the worst, credible info I could share”

- The most common criticisms ex-employees have of their orgs is low pay, feeling not valued enough by management, and a “toxic” work culture. 

- Most of Ben's article is totally run-of-the-mill criticisms (but presented as very serious) 

Base rate: even among overpaid workers, 94% are not completely satisfied with their pay. Everyone wants more money.

- Base rate: ~50% of people feel undervalued at work.

- Base rate: 71% of EAs claim to have a mental illness.

- The probability that 2 (of 21) people who work for any EA org felt this way is extremely high

Evidence/read more

“But you threatened to sue Lightcone if they didn’t give you a week to gather your evidence”

- We did that because we had tried everything else, yet Ben kept, unbelievably, refusing to even look at our evidence. What were we supposed to do? He was about to publish reputation-destroying things he would know were false if he just waited to see the evidence.

- Despite the fact that he published numerous things he knew were false (e.g. verbal agreementaccountingvegan foodlegal medicine, & many more), we decided not to sue because we think that would increase p(doom). 

Evidence/read more

What are we doing differently in the future?

- We’ve spent ages analyzing this and trying to figure out what happened and what we can do differently. 

- We asked Alice and Chloe multiple times to share their side and do some conflict resolution and they refused

- The accusations are almost entirely false, misleading, or catastrophizing normal things, so we cannot improve on that front. 

Nevertheless, some things we are doing differently are:

- Not living with employees & all employees being remote.

- Not using that compensation structure again. 

- Hiring assistants who’ve already been assistants, so they know they like it.

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe: Nonlinear, a charity startup, had an entrepreneurial and creative problem-solving culture. However, this is actually a bad thing, because sometimes that leads to people feeling pressured and overwhelmed

- Accurate. We did have a culture of “being entrepreneurial and creative in problem-solving”. The fact that they applied to work at a startup and considered this to be bad is strange. Others have said this is the best part about being around us, our “contagious mindset around problem-solving

-The things they feltpressured” into are disproven elsewhere. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4evidence #5

“But Alice seems so open and nice”

Why does Alice get away with telling falsehoods so much? 

- It takes months to catch her in enough falsehoods to see the pattern. In the meantime, she seems so joyful.

- She bounces from jobs/communities quickly. Her longest job is 13 months, so by the time you start catching on, she’s already gone.

- She (well, part of her) believes what she says and she’s genuinely kind, so she’s convincing.

- She builds trust by quickly telling you things that seem very personal - “wow, she must really like and trust me to be telling me all this!” - about how other people have oppressed her, which triggers protective instincts.

Evidence/read more

To many EAs, this would have been a dream job

Alice/Chloe/Ben painted a picture of Alice/Chloe having terrible jobs and they barely survived those few months they were with us. Now, I do not deny that Alice and Chloe suffered, and I deeply wished they hadn’t. But a lot of people would have loved these jobs. Look at the job ad - “you get paid to see the world and live in endless summer, since we only stay in places where it’s warm and sunny.”

Clearly aspects of the job didn’t work for Alice (wanted 100% control and nothing less) and Chloe (found being an assistant to be beneath her). However, I’d like to describe the job to the people who would have liked it.

Chloe beat out 75 other “overqualified” (which she described herself as being) EAs who applied for Chloe’s job - getting an EA job is hard. 

Imagine a job where you’re always in beautiful, sunny, exotic places. Part of the year is spent in various EA Hubs: London, Oxford, Berkeley, San Francisco. Part of the year you explore the world: Venice, the Caribbean, Rome, Paris, the French Riviera, Bali, Costa Rica.

You’re surrounded by a mix of uplifting, ambitious entrepreneurs and a steady influx of top people in the AI safety space. In the morning, you go for a swim with one of your heroes in the field. In the evening, a campfire on a tropical beach. Jungle hiking. Adventure. Trying new foods. Surfing. Sing-a-longs. Roadtrips. Mountain biking. Yachting. Ziplining. Hot tub karaoke parties. All with top people in your field.

Your group has a really optimistic and warm vibe. There’s this sense in the group that anything is possible if you are just creative, brave, and never give up. It feels really empowering and inspiring. 

Alice using her surfboard as a desk, co-working with Chloe’s boyfriend. 
Office in Italy
The gang celebrating… something. I don’t know what. We celebrated everything.
Alice and Chloe working in a hot tub. Hot tub meetings are a thing at Nonlinear. We try to have meetings in the most exciting places. Kat’s favorite: a cave waterfall.
Alice’s “desk” even comes with a beach doggo friend! 
Chloe and Drew are on top of the world.
Working by the villa pool. Watch for monkeys!
Roadtrip through the Swiss Alps
Sunset dinner with friends… every day!
Even after Alice had been spreading horrible falsehoods about us, instead of “retaliating”, we threw a party for her.
Chloe’s office in paradise. To help her grow, we let her spend 2 hours a day (paid) learning about whatever she wanted to advance her career - very unusual for any job, much less being an assistant.
Bioluminescent bay adventure. Chloe’s unofficial title was “Chloe, Fun Lord of Nonlinear, First of Her Name”   

Chloe’s job was a lot of operations people’s dream job. She got to set up everything from scratch, instead of having to work with existing sub-optimal systems. She was working on big, challenging operations puzzles that were far above the usual entry-level admin stuff that you’d get as a person who just graduated from uni. 

About 10% of the time was doing laundry, groceries, packing, and cooking - and she has to do many of those things for herself anyways! At least this is on paid time, feels high impact, and means she’s not sitting in front of the computer all day. Also, everybody starts somewhere, and being in charge of setting up all of the operations for an org is a pretty great place to start, even if it does also include doing some pretty simple tasks. As a job straight out of university, this is a pretty plush job. And getting a job in EA is hard.

And she gets two hours a day of professional development. Paid! She spends the time learning things like management, lean methodology, measuring impact, etc. She gets to choose basically whatever it is she wants to learn. Getting paid to read whatever you want for 2 hours a day would be a dream for many EAs.

Even more people would have loved Alice’s job, especially entrepreneurial types. When Alice arrived, just as a friend, she was encouraged to read a book a day on entrepreneurship, to quickly skill up. She started working with us building a product that seemed likely to be very high impact. Especially since it was a project that was meant to help do decentralized, automated prioritization research, so she’d be able to use the product herself to find the idea she wanted to start. 

She had tons of freedom on strategy and she was very quickly given more responsibility. Within a few weeks of starting, she was managing an intern. She received hours of mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs every single day. She was quickly introduced to a huge percentage of all the major players in the field, to help her design the product better. 

Then, within just a few months of starting, she was given nearly complete control of $240,000 - so much control that she could also choose how much she got paid! Imagine being quickly given so much financial and strategic freedom. As long as it falls within the scope of the department, you have control over nearly a quarter million dollars. Whatever you want to pay yourself out of that budget, you can. If you do a good job, that $240,000 could rapidly expand to $2-3 million a year.

Especially given that there’s a chance in half a year or so that you could spin out and be an entirely separate organization. Or hand it off to somebody else after gaining invaluable experience launching a really big project, all the while with the guidance and guardrails of an experienced entrepreneur. 

Sure, it’s an unorthodox payment arrangement. But, man, you are certainly living a glamorous lifestyle. Always in sunny, exotic, places. Living in beautiful homes. Going on adventures in bioluminescent bays, yachting, kayaking, and snorkeling in tropical reefs. And you’re living that glam life while working for a charity. Not bad. 

And, I mean, you had been considering living at the EA Hotel, where you’d be living in much less nice conditions, wouldn’t see the sun for half the year, and wouldn’t get nearly the exposure to experienced entrepreneurs and top people in the field. Maybe you’d get a stipend of max $150 a month. 

Anyways, for you, it’s not about the money. You’re an aspiring charity entrepreneur, for goodness sake! That’s not a career you go into for the money. It’s about the impact and the life you’re living. And you want a job where you’re seeing the world and doing your best to save it. 

Sure, maybe when you’re older, you’ll get a job that pays more and stays in one place so you can put down more roots, but right now you’re young. You want to explore. You’re living the dream and seeing the world.

You could maybe get a job with higher pay, though your previous jobs were ~minimum wage, and Nonlinear is paying you a lot more than that, so maybe not. But none would involve the travel. None would involve the adventure.

You want to go snorkeling in tropical reefs with EA leaders but also work in Oxford and have deep conversations with your favorite EA researchers at lunch. You want to pet the cats in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul while you’re also building something really high impact. You want to be investing so much into your personal growth that you get to spend a quarter of your time just learning. You want adventure and impact. 

Again - this doesn’t mean everybody would like the job. However, to paint this job as “inhumane” or as if Alice was “a fully dependent and subservient house pet” - is a dark, paranoid view of the warm, positive, uplifting environment we created.

Alice was constantly given more and more responsibility. She was given more freedom than almost any EA job and then told everybody she was kept in metaphorical shackles. She made Ben (and everybody else in the community she spent the last year telling) think that she was essentially a slave, kept under the oppressive hold of a controlling and isolating group of abusers. 

[Emerson’s note: Kat paid herself $12,000 a year - half of minimum wage - for most of her charity career because she took the drowning child argument seriously. Not $1,000 a month on top of all-expenses-paid travel, adventures, villas, and restaurants - $1k/month total.  In Canada’s most expensive city. Sharing a single always-damp towel with her partner. Kat doesn’t usually bring this up because she doesn’t want to make people feel bad who won’t or can’t do the same, but I think it’s important information about her character. Say what you will about her, but she deeply cares about altruism.] 

But through some combination of mental illness, daily LSD use, and a society that uncritically rewards anyone claiming to be a victim, she turned financial freedom into financial servitude. She turned gratitude into manipulation. 

Yes, Alice suffered. Chloe did too. Nobody is doubting that. The question is what caused the suffering. Because for most people, having to work for an hour on a weekend, then clearing it up with your boss and it never happening again isn’t a cause for months of depression. 

For most people, having a separate business bringing in $3,000 a month and being able to choose your own pay is financial freedom, not servitude. 

For most people who applied to these jobs, they would be considered great jobs. And if they found out they didn’t like it, they’d just quit and do something else. They wouldn’t demand a public lynching.

Sometimes people are depressed and see everything as bad and hostile. Sometimes people are sleep deprived, taking LSD every day, in chronic pain, and start seeing plots everywhere. Sometimes people have been struggling with mental health issues for their entire life. 

This was not an objectively bad job that caused them psychological harm. It was a woman who kept forgetting she was an assistant and feeling outraged when asked to do her job. She felt she was overqualified and turned that resentment on her employers. It was a woman who’s struggled with severe mental illness for over 90% of her life and continued to do so while she was with us. 

Sharing Information on Ben Pace

Since the article was published, an alarming number of people in the community have come forward to report worrying experiences with Ben Pace, and report feeling frightened about speaking out because of what Ben might do to them.

As just one example, one woman had a deeply traumatic experience with Ben but is afraid to say anything, because he runs LessWrong and is surrounded by so many powerful people in the community who would defend him. She’s worried if she comes forward that he’ll use his power to hurt her career, both directly by attacking her again, or indirectly, by making sure none of her posts get onto the front page. (We’ve heard multiple reports of people having a conflict with one of the Lightcone team and then suddenly, their posts just never seem to be on the front page anymore. We don’t know if this is true.) 

She asked me to not share it with Ben because she’s frightened of him, but she said it was finally time to be strong and speak up now, as long as she was fully anonymized. She couldn’t live with herself if she allowed another person to be hurt by Ben the way Ben hurt her. I ask you to please respect her privacy and if you know her, not bring this up unless she does. 

She’s been struggling with mental health issues since he attacked her, unable to sleep or eat. She still, after all this time, just randomly breaks down crying on sidewalks. She even considered leaving effective altruism. She no longer feels safe at Lightcone events and no longer goes to them, despite missing the many good people in the rationalist community. It’s shaken her trust in the community and talking about it still makes her visibly upset. 

She told me to not talk to Ben about it, because he takes absolutely no responsibility for the harm he’s done, and has explicitly told her so. And he shows a friendly face to people, which is how he gets away with it, all the while professing simply an interest in truth. But he’ll be smiling at you and friendly, all the while having the intention to stab you in the back. One source reported that “Ben is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

People who knew what happened to this woman confirmed that what Ben had done to her was “horrifying” and “they couldn’t believe he would do that to a person”. They were shocked at his lack of concern for her suffering and confirmed that he would probably really hurt her career if she came forward with her information. 

She knows of at least one other person who’s had really worrying experiences with him. Where deep and preventable harm was happening and he just didn’t seem to care. He actually blamed the person who was being hurt! She hasn’t brought it up with the person much because she doesn’t want to stir up old hurts. She can tell it still hurts them, but they’ve managed to move on and remember the things they really care about. 

She had heard about what had happened to this person before, but she thought it was probably just a one-off thing and it wouldn’t happen to her. She wishes she had paid more attention so she could have avoided her own traumatic experience. She’s still suffering. She’s still lying awake each night, replaying, over and over, the nightmare of what Ben did to her.

Another person reports “I wish I had never met Ben. He hurt me more than I even thought was possible. I highly recommend not being friends with him and if you see him at a party, I would just subtly avoid him. I hope he gets better and stops doing to others what he did to me, but as far as I’ve heard, he’s still completely in denial about the harm he’s caused and has no intention of changing.”

---

This information above is true to the best of my knowledge. What other worrying things might I find if I spent months investigating like Ben did?

However, this is completely unfair to Ben. It’s written in the style of a hit piece. And I believe you should not update much on Ben’s character from this. 

  • Like Ben did to us, I did basically no fact-checking.
  • Like Ben did to us, I assumed ill-intent.
  • Like Ben did to us, I unfairly framed everything using emotional language to make Ben seem maximally nefarious. 
  • Like Ben did to us, I uncritically shared anonymous accusations. Since they’re anonymous, Ben can’t even properly defend himself, which is why courts don’t accept anonymous hearsay. 
    • Ask legal history scholars what happens when courts allow anonymous hearsay: kangaroo courts and mob justice.
  • Like Ben did to us, I didn’t give him a proper chance to respond to these accusations before publishing them.
  • I mentioned none of his many very good qualities.
  • I interviewed none of the people who like Ben, and exclusively focused on the testimonies of a small number of people who don’t like him.
    • I even left out the good things these people said about Ben, like he did to us. It reads very differently when it’s not just negative.
  • I used culture-war optimized language (victim/oppressor) to turn people’s brains off. 
  • I used wording that was technically accurate but implied “a lot of people are saying”, like Ben did to us.

I’m not yet worried about these “patterns” about Ben because I don’t know if they are patterns. I haven’t heard his side. And I refuse to pass judgment on someone without hearing their side. 

Further, through using emotional and one-sided language, I made it sound like it was incredibly obvious that what Ben did was awful and you’d be a monster to disagree. However, given what I know about these allegations, I think 35-75% of EAs would think that they’re not nearly as bad as the witnesses made them out to be. The other 35-75% would think it was clearly and deeply unethical. It would depend on each allegation and how it was presented. 

It would be a matter of debate, not a matter of public lynching.

At least, it would be if we presented it in an even-handed manner, investigating both sides, looking for disconfirming evidence, and not presuming guilt until proven innocent.

Also, in case you’re worried about these people, they all say they’re OK. All of the situations are either being taken care of or have ended and they’re no longer suffering and do not want to pursue further actions to prevent Ben from doing it to other people. 

I could do this for anybody. Just to give one example: almost everybody has had “bad breakups” and if you only speak to “disgruntled exes” you will get a warped, distorted view of reality.

I don’t think Ben should even have to respond to these. It would also be a very expensive use of time, since in his follow-up post, he said he’s now available for hire as an investigative journalist for $800,000 a year. 

At that hourly rate, he spent perhaps ~$130,000 of Lightcone donors’ money on this. But it’s more than that. When you factor in our time, plus hundreds/thousands of comments across all the posts, it’s plausible Ben’s negligence cost EA millions of dollars of lost productivity. If his accusations were true, that could have potentially been a worthwhile use of time - it's just that they aren't, and so that productivity is actually destroyed. And crucially, it was very easy for him to have not wasted everybody’s time - he just had to be willing to look at our evidence.

Even if it was just $1 million, that wipes out the yearly contribution of 200 hardworking earn-to-givers who sacrificed, scrimped and saved to donate $5,000 this year.

I am reminded of this comment from the EA Forum: “digging through the threads of previous online engagements of someone to find some dirt to hopefully hurt them and their associated organizations and acquaintances is personally disgusting to me, and I really hope that we don't engage in similar sort of tactics…though I don't think it's a really worry because the general level of decency from EAs at least seems to be higher than the ever lowering bar journalists set." 

As a community, if we normalize this, we will tear ourselves apart and drown in a tidal wave of fear and suspicion. 

This is a universal weapon that can be used on anybody. What if somebody exclusively only talked to the people who didn’t like you? What if they framed it in the maximally emotional and culture-war way? Have you ever accidentally made people uncomfortable? Have you ever made a social gaff? Does the idea of somebody exclusively looking for and publishing negative things about you make you feel uneasy? Terrified? 

I actually played this game with some of my friends to see how easy it was. I tried to say only true things but in a way that made them look like villains. It was terrifyingly easy. Even for one of my oldest friends, who is one of the more universally-liked EAs, I could make him sound like a terrifying creep.

I could do this for any EA org. I know of so many conflicts in EA that if somebody pulled a Ben Pace on, it would explode in a similar fashion. 

But that’s not because EA orgs are filled with abuse. It’s because looking exclusively for negative information is clearly bad epistemics and bad ethics (and so is not something I would do). It will consistently be biased and less likely to come to the truth than when you look for good and bad information and try to look for disconfirming evidence. 

And it will consistently lead to immense suffering. Knowing that somebody in the community is deliberately looking for only negative things about you, then publishing it to your entire community? It’s a suffering I wouldn’t wish on anybody. 

EA’s high trust culture, part of what makes it great, is crumbling, and “sharing only negative information about X person/charity” posts will destroy it.

----

In the preceding pages and our extensive appendix we presented evidence supporting an alternative hypothesis:

2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells.

2 EAs are Mentally Unwell Hypothesis: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us. 

Below we share concluding thoughts.

So how do we learn from this to make our community better? How can we make EA antifragile?

Imagine that you are a sophomore in college. It’s midwinter, and you’ve been feeling blue and anxious. You sit down with your new therapist and tell him how you’ve been feeling lately. 

He responds, “Oh, wow. People feel very anxious when they’re in great danger. Do you feel very anxious sometimes?”

This realization that experiencing anxiety means you are in great danger is making you very anxious right now. You say yes. The therapist answers, “Oh, no! Then you must be in very great danger.”

You sit in silence for a moment, confused. In your past experience, therapists have helped you question your fears, not amplify them.  

The therapist adds, “Have you experienced anything really nasty or difficult in your life? Because I should also warn you that experiencing trauma makes you kind of broken, and you may be that way for the rest of your life.”

He briefly looks up from his notepad. “Now, since we know you are in grave danger, let’s discuss how you can hide.

Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind

EA is becoming this therapist.

EA since FTX has trauma. We’re infected by a cancer of distrust, suspicion, and paranoia. Frequent witch burnings. Seeing ill-intent everywhere. Forbidden questions (in EA!)  Forbidden thoughts (in EA!)

We’re attacking each other instead of attacking the world’s problems.

Anonymous accounts everywhere because it’s not safe anymore, too easy to get cancelled. 

People afraid to come to the defense of the accused witch lest they be accused (as Scott Alexander said).

High impact people and donors quietly leaving, turned off by the insularity and drama.

Well, did a bunch of predators join overnight or is it more that we have trauma?

If you were new to EA and you looked at the top posts of all time and saw it was anonymous gossip from 2 (of 21) people who worked for a tiny charity for a few months, what would you think this community values? What is its revealed preference? 

Would that community seem healthy to you? If you weren’t already part of this community, would that make you want to join?

People spent hours debating whether a person in a villa in a tropical paradise got a vegan burger delivered fast enough - would you think this community cared about scope sensitivity and saving the world (like we normally do)?

“First they came for one EA leader, and I did not speak out -- 

because I just wanted to focus on making AI go well.
 

Then they came for another, and I did not speak out --

because surely these are just the aftershocks of FTX, it will blow over.

 

Then they came for another, and I still did not speak out --

because I was afraid for my reputation if they came after me.
 

Then they came for me - and I have no reputation to protect anymore.”

So, what do we do? We have a choice to make:

Are we fragile - continuing to descend into a spiral of PTSD madness with regular lynchings? 

Are we resilient - continuing to do good despite the trauma?

Or are we antifragile - can we experience post-traumatic growth and become stronger? 

Can this be the last EA leader lynching, and the beginning of the EA community becoming stronger from what we’ve learned post-FTX? If we want to do the most good, we must be antifragile. 

Alice, Chloe, or Ben mean well and are trying to do good, so we will not demand apologies from them. We are all on the same team. We wish them the best, we hope they’re happy, and we hope they learn from this.

As Tim Urban of Wait But Why said: “In a liberal democracy, the hard cudgel of physical violence isn't allowed. You can't burn villains at the stake. But you can burn their reputation and livelihood at the stake. This is the soft cudgel of social consequences. It only works if everyone decides to let it work. If enough people stand up for the target and push back against the smear campaign, the soft cudgel loses its impact.”

Conclusion: a story with no villains

I wish I could think that Alice, Ben, and Chloe were villains. 

They hurt me so much, I couldn’t sleep. I cried more than any other time in my life.

My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t type responses to comments, and people attacked me for this, saying my not responding immediately was evidence I was a witch.

Alice, Ben, and Chloe show absolutely no remorse and I don’t predict they’re going to stop. They’re in too deep now. They can’t change their minds. 

Although I certainly hope they do. If they updated I think the community would applaud them, because that takes epistemic courage similar to Geoffrey Hinton updating on AI. 

And yet, despite all the harm they’ve done to me and the community, I can see their good intentions clear as day. So why are they hurting us if they have such good intentions? 

Most harm done by good people is either accidental or because they think they’re fighting the bad guys. And they’ve full-on demonized us. 

Demonizing somebody is the best way for good people to hurt other good people. Hence them calling us “predators”, going after the “bright-eyed” youth of the community, “chewing them up and spitting them out”.  This is the language of a witch hunter, not a truthseeking rationalist.

Chloe explicitly says she can’t empathize with us at all. Reflect on this.

I don’t think they’re villains. But they think we are. And you’re allowed to do all sorts of things to people if they’re bad. 

And that’s just what happened. Alice/Chloe had been telling everyone, Ben heard about it, and… monsters don’t deserve fair trials! They’ll just use their time to manipulate the system. And the two young women were afraid of retaliation! 

Sure, they’d been telling lots of people in the community their false narratives for over a year and none of their strange fears of us “hiring stalkers” or “calling their families” had happened. But that doesn’t matter. You don’t stop while saving a community to check and see if there’s actually a witch. He’s the hero saving the collective from the nefarious internal traitors who must be purged. 

Chloe isn’t a villain. She’s a woman who didn’t like her entry level job and wanted more money. She was a fresh graduate who felt entitled to something better. She struggled with mental health issues and blamed her feelings of worthlessness and overwhelm on Emerson and I. She took totally normal things and catastrophized them. Her story probably wouldn’t have been a scandal if it weren’t for our community’s PTSD around FTX. 

Alice isn’t a villain. She’s an incredible human being who has struggled with mental health issues her entire life, and one of the symptoms is delusions of persecution - people trying to control her. This is why we’re #27 and #28 on her list of 28 people she’s accused of abuse (that we know of). 

Imagine being able to choose how much you got paid and having a whole separate income stream (unrelated to your job) and yet feeling financially controlled? Imagine seeing ill-intentions everywhere? 

That sounds horrible. I genuinely hope she gets the help she needs. 

And finally, we’re not villains either. We paid our team what we said we’d pay them. We set it up so that they socialized with more people than the average person. We valued their time so much that we paid for Chloe to spend two hours a day doing professional development. I valued Chloe’s time so much that she asked me to stop sharing my gratitude as much. When Alice asked for a raise 3 months into her job, we let her choose her pay. We continue to have good experiences with the vast majority of people we work with. 

We were not faultless. Emerson should not have snapped on that travel day and he should have apologized immediately. I should have scheduled a weekly meeting right after the conference instead of not properly talking to Alice about work stuff for three weeks, letting the misunderstanding last for so long. 

But overall, it wasn’t that the job was bad or they were mistreated. They felt oppressed for some other reason. Maybe it was that Chloe hated being an assistant and found normal assistant work demeaning. Maybe it was because Alice was microdosing LSD nearly every day, sleeping just a few hours a night, and has a lifelong pattern of seeing persecution everywhere. Maybe it’s just because they’ve both struggled to be happy most of their lives and continued to do so for the 4-5 months they were with us. We’ll leave it to them and their loved ones to figure it out.

This combined poorly with our community being traumatized by FTX, being hyper-vigilant for another potential SBF. It also combined with poor epistemics because of the (unfounded) concern about retaliation. And it certainly didn’t help that Ben had already committed to paying them $10,000 before seeing our evidence.

This was a tragedy of errors. It was a bunch of well-intentioned and fallible humans trying to do good in the world. A recipe for trouble, really. 

And there will be other conflicts in EA. I know of countless EA conflicts that if somebody pulled a Ben Pace, only looking for negative information attacking one side, would explode in a similarly spectacular fashion.

This doesn’t mean EA is rife with abuse, it just means that EA is rife with humans

Humans with strong moral emotions and poor social skills on average. We should expect a lot of conflict. 

We need to find a better way to deal with this. Our community has been turning on itself with increasing ferocity, and we need to find a better way to recover from FTX. 

Let’s do what EA does best: optimize dispassionately, embody scout mindset, and interpret people charitably. 

 

Remember:

Almost nobody is evil.

Almost everything is broken.

Almost everything is fixable.

 

Let’s fix this. 

If you are disturbed by what happened here, here are some ways you can help

How do we prevent the methodology of exclusively seeking and publishing negative information, without fact checking, from becoming an acceptable norm? This methodology will predictably lead to incorrect conclusions because wild accusations will always be more viral than boring bank receipts and work contracts. Because looking for disconfirming evidence is vital for truth-seeking and scout mindset. 

Currently, the original post is one of the most upvoted posts of all time on EA Forum and LessWrong, so now one of the first things people see about EA is a gossip column whose claims have been debunked. This reflects poorly on our ethics, epistemics, and priorities.

  1. Consider if your vote on this post, the original post (EA ForumLessWrong), and Ben’s victory lap post (EA ForumLessWrong), reflect your beliefs.
  2. Contribute to the discourse in the comments. It can be scary to say what you believe in these sorts of threads, but that’s also why it’s especially impactful to do so. 
  3. Given what they have done, a number of people expressed to us that they think Alice/Chloe are a danger to the health of the community and should not be anonymized. We will leave that to the community to decide.
  4. Publicly or privately say that you would respect Ben massively if he updated on this new information. Right now, he paid $10,000 and received massive karma, so the psychological pressure for him to dig in and never change his mind is immense. However, if Ben pulled a Geoffrey Hinton and was able to update based on new information despite massive psychological pressure against that, that would be an act of impressive epistemic virtue. As a community, we want to make it so that people are rewarded for doing the right but hard thing, and this is one of those times.

Acknowledgments

A big thank you to Spencer Greenberg, Neel Nanda, Nuño Sempere, Geoffrey Miller, Vlad Firoiu, Manuel Allgaier, Luca De Leo, Matt Berkowitz, River Bellamy, and others for providing insightful feedback (though they do not necessarily agree with/endorse anything in this post).

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Brief update: I am still in the process of reading this. At this point I have given the post itself a once-over, and begun to read it more slowly (and looking through the appendices as they're linked).

I think any and all primary sources that Kat provides are good (such as the page of records of transactions). I am also grateful that they have not deanonymized Alice and Chloe.

I plan to compare the things that this post says directly against specific claims in mine, and acknowledge anything where I was factually inaccurate. I also plan to do a pass where I figure out which claims of mine this post responds to and which it doesn’t, and I want to reflect on the new info that’s been entered into evidence and how it relates to the overall picture. 

It probably goes without saying that I (and everyone reading) want to believe true things and not false things about this situation. If I made inaccurate statements I would like to know that and correct them.

As I wrote in my follow-up post, I am not intending to continue spear-heading an investigation into Nonlinear. However this post makes some accusations of wrongdoing on my part, which I intend to respond to, and of course for... (read more)

My attention continues to be on the question of whether my post was accurate and whether this post debunks the claims and narratives shared in mine. To minimize public attention costs and also to preserve my own sanity, I am aiming to engage with Nonlinear’s response in a way that focuses only on the clearest and most direct critiques of my post. I’m currently focusing on 2-3 of the claims in their response that most contradict my post, investigating them further, and intend to publish the results of that.

Once I’ve finished that process and shared my thinking (including making edits to my original post to correct any mistakes), I’ll engage more with the rest of the comments and what the appropriate norms are and whether I should’ve done things substantially differently, but in the meantime I think my efforts are better spent figuring out what is actually true about the relationship Nonlinear had with its employees.

I am trying to avoid writing my bottom line, and reduce any (further) friction to me changing my mind on this subject, which is a decent chunk of why I’m not spending time arguing in the comments right now (I expect that to give me a pretty strong “digging in my heels” in... (read more)

0KatWoods
I hope that while you’re investigating this, you talk to us and ask us for any evidence we have. We’re more than happy to share relevant evidence and are willing to set reasonable deadlines for how long it’ll take for us to send it to you.  We also don’t want to waste more people’s time on going back and forth publicly about the evidence when you can easily check with us first before publishing.  I also recommend you talk to us and see our evidence before you write the post. If you’ve already written the post, it’s hard to update afterward when you get more information. And it’s hard to write an accurate post before you’ve seen all the relevant information.  We did not share all of the relevant evidence because it was already hundreds of pages long and we tried to prioritize. We have more evidence that might be relevant to your post.  I think this is smart and appreciate it. 

I strongly think that much or even most of the commentary could have been discarded in favour of more evidence

I think it's worth explicitly stating that while I think most in this community are reading "I plan to compare the things that this post says directly against specific claims in mine, and acknowledge anything where I was factually inaccurate" as an example of a positive norm, it reads to me as a strongly negative one. 

Specifically: Based on this comment, it sounds like you knew or should have known much of this evidence was available upon the decision to publish your original post, and you went ahead regardless without waiting to review claims that falsify parts of your original post. In other words, you mixed what appear to be materially false claims with true ones in a post aimed explicitly at destroying the reputation of an organization. The correct time to update factual inaccuracies in something so high-stakes is not after-the-fact, it is prior to publication, and the presence of correctable falsehoods in the original, whether or not you subsequently correct them, is a major issue.

[-]habryka26-1

Specifically: Based on this comment, it sounds like you knew or should have known much of this evidence was available upon the decision to publish your original post, and you went ahead regardless without waiting to review claims that falsify parts of your original post.

To be clear, as I think I have stated in like dozens of places, at the time the post was written, all evidence that Ben was given made it into the post. There are no glaring omissions, the post accurately captured Ben's epistemic state at the time. 

The only thing happening was that Nonlinear was claiming many of the concrete claims were false, which we did not believe them on (and I still don't believe them on). Spencer sent us a screenshot about the vegan food stuff 2 hours before publication, which Ben didn't get around to editing in before the post went live, but that's all the evidence that I know about that you could somehow argue we had but didn't include. It is not accurate that Nonlinear sent credible signals of having counterevidence before the post went live (and if someone wants to, I would probably be up for arranging a call with a neutral third party to walk them through the totality of our Nonline... (read more)

I responded to your EA forum comments much earlier in the day, but my responses are still stuck in the mod filter, so I might repeat myself a bit here. I'm not part of EA, but I've been around the rationalist sphere for a long while and I have more experience than most here with investigative journalism–adjacent work. 

You regularly mention hundreds of hours of work, a deadline you had to meet, the inconvenience you would have faced upon delaying, and the chance that you might have chosen not to publish at all had you delayed. 

That's all very well and good, but honestly doesn't sway the needle for me at all in terms of your duty in the situation. Self-imposed deadlines are not an excuse to avoid hearing out one party to a conflict you're publishing.

In those hundreds of hours, so far as I can tell, you spent a grand total of three gathering one side of the story—the side of a group Ben's post was explicitly adversarial towards and explicitly aimed at destroying the reputation of. When they told him they were compiling a detailed list of evidence to respond to some of his claims, you guys flatly refused to investigate further or delay your self-imposed deadline. I cover a st... (read more)

In those hundreds of hours, so far as I can tell, you spent a grand total of three gathering one side of the story—the side of a group Ben's post was explicitly adversarial towards and explicitly aimed at destroying the reputation of.

Look, man, what do you want us to do. We talked to dozens of other people working at the organization, extensively cross-checked the stories they told us, and also did extensive independent research to figure out what happened. Also, our sources were terrified of retribution and did not want to be exposed to the leadership. 

We talked to them multiple times, for many hours, though yeah, we weren't able to show them everything we were planning to publish. What is the threshold of hours of engagement where it's OK to publish such an article according to your perspective?

This is all totally standard stuff when you do investigative reporting. Of course you don't always give the organization you are reporting on full access to your article before you publish it. I wish people could reliably do that, but it's genuinely hard with sources who are worried about retribution.

I encourage you to talk to any investigative reporter with experience in the field an... (read more)

I told you what I wanted you to do. You say it's unrealistic, I say that I wouldn't think to hold you to a standard I don't hold myself to.

I'm a blogger and a podcast producer, not an investigative journalist, and I'm paid to focus on internet nonsense, not truly critical, world-saving stuff. But I do my fair share of investigative work. This article is one of my recent high-effort investigations, over someone getting punched on a beach after a long series of ugly subculture drama—a much lower-stakes sequence than the one you covered, but one no less personal or painful for the participants. 

The "antagonists" were not particularly communicative, but I reached out to them multiple times, including right before publication, checking if I could ask questions and asking them to review my claims about them for accuracy. I went to the person closest to them who was informed on the situation and got as much information as I could from them. I spent hours talking with my primary sources, the victim and his boyfriend, and collecting as much hard evidence as possible. I spent a long time weighing which points were material and which would just serve to stir up and uncover old drama. Par... (read more)

I like this summary, actually! Some small edits I would make: 

On the last day before publication, they show a draft to another person close to the story, who makes at least one clear correction of material fact, then, with a couple of hours to go before the scheduled publication, provides evidence contradicting another of the article's supporting claims. 

This is currently inaccurate. Spencer did not point out a material inaccuracy. Here is the original quote that we showed Spencer: 

(After making that decision I was also linked to this ominous yet still vague EA Forum thread, which further links to a lot of Glassdoor reviews for the previous company run by Nonlinear Cofounder Emerson Spartz, with many strongly negative reviews saying things like “I still have nightmares. Like, actual nightmares while I'm asleep.” and “On any given week in the office, the chances were pretty high that someone would end up crying, screaming or melting down.” and “Don't work here unless you want to be belittled, stretched too thin, and undervalued.” and “No amount of snacks make up for the toxic and traumatizing workplace environment nurtured here”.)

This is all totally accurate. Spe... (read more)

It's tempting to nitpick the edits a bit, but I think this is probably close enough to get good answers while being approximately satisfactory to both of us. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thank you, I appreciate it! 

The above image contains the full text of my message, absent the rest of the copy-pasted hypo. I'll note in the interests of broad fairness that other involved parties suggested edits, notably that the last-minute evidence was evidence indicating the key witness had lied and that "7 days" is longer than they had to respond to the material claims. I used none of their suggestions. I think the hypo could be a reasonable question across a somewhat broad range of specific factual emphases and think the framing as-is is sufficient to get good answers; in my messages, I did not alter the hypo from the words you chose.

I reached out to three journalists with long investigative track records and have two responses so far. It goes without saying that these are people I have close working relationships, regular communication, or other personal connections with, but I believe the framing and lack of context provided mean they are well-positioned to consider the question in the abstract and on the merits independent of any connections.

The first response (update: from Katie Herzog):

I would delay publication. I’m not sure about the specifics of libel law but putting myself in a publisher’s shoes,

... (read more)
7habryka
Thank you! Hmm, the first one seems to be responding at the level of "here is how you don't get sued". Would be interested in a follow-up question asking what to do if you are not concerned about getting sued. The second one makes sense. Would be happy to draft something with more detail as a response, so we can get something out of it. 

I would change the text. He gave us less than 24 hours.

He sent us the draft in the middle of the night, filled with many accusations we hadn't even heard of, on a day he knew we were traveling and wouldn't be able to respond properly. He said he'd publish it that very day (aka <24 hours)

He ended up publishing it the next day at a time where we normally would have been asleep, except that we'd asked a friend to call us and wake us up if Ben was posting. We ended up having to respond to that post on a fraction of the sleep we usually get. 

You could try to save he gave us 60 hours if you count from the time he spoke to us to the time he published. However, when we spoke to him, we thought he would wait to see our evidence. He also didn't tell us many of the accusations he was going to publish, so I think this is an unfair characterization of the time they gave us

He did not promise to look at the evidence before publishing, so he was consistent in that regard, but we thought he would wait since he explicitly said in a follow up email: "FYI I did update from things you shared that Alice's reports are less reliable than I had thought, and I do expect you'll be able to show a bunc... (read more)

I've been trying to stay out of this, but I'm honestly shocked at this claim you're making.

You say:

We talked to dozens of other people working at the organization, extensively cross-checked the stories they told us

But this is, just, wildly false? You did not speak to dozens of other people working at Nonlinear.

And Ben himself contradicts you. In Ben's post, he says:

My current understanding is that they’ve had around ~4 remote interns, 1 remote employee, and 2 in-person employees (Alice and Chloe).

Ben thinks we’ve only had 7 total team members, but we've actually had 21 - extremely far off.

If you "extensively cross-checked the stories," how did Ben get such a basic number so wrong? And why are you under the impression that you had talked to dozens of employees if Ben did not?

The fact that you spent 1000 hours on this and got such key details this wrong is surprising to me.

Ok, but why is this a big deal? Aside from showing egregiously bad fact checking, a large portion of Ben's post was trying to make the case that there is a pattern of Nonlinear "chewing up and spitting out other bright-eyed young EAs who want to do good in the world." It would significantly weaken your case if it w... (read more)

Sorry, saying "worked at" is definitely not the right term, sorry about that. 

We talked to dozens of people who have either worked at Nonlinear, otherwise worked with people currently at Nonlinear, or have substantially engaged with Nonlinear in a professional capacity and so seem like they are in a good position to judge what happened. "Worked at" is definitely the wrong word. I should have said something like "have worked with people at Nonlinear". 

I don't particularly want to litigate the employee thing in this random thread. My best guess is Ben was talking about the number of employees during the specific stretch of months that the article was covering. 

It is also inaccurate that only 2 employees we talked to had bad experiences. As Ben mentions multiple times in the post, many additional people we talked to had bad experiences (though generally of somewhat lesser magnitude). 

This squares very starkly in contrast with Nonlinear's perception of things. It seems to me that all the work in your comment is being done by the "we did not believe them on" bit, which is very subjective and frankly would be ridiculous in something like fair trial -- it would be like saying "the defense is not allowed to bring witnesses or make a case, because despite them claiming that they'll make a strong case, we (the prosection) just don't believe them". You can argue about whether Nonlinear's eventual response was satisfactory (though their evidence seems compelling to me), but I'm not seeing your case on this point in particular.

[-]habryka18-6

Hmm, I don't think I am understanding this comment, so might be best to just clarify. 

Ben's goal with the post was really not to be judge, I hope he made that abundantly clear. The goal was to publish some evidence that had been extensively circulating around privately in the EA Community for a while, so that more people could take it into account, and also allow Nonlinear to publish a response or try to refute that evidence.

For that purpose, the question is whether Ben published anything that he knew was wrong. He did not do so, to the best of my knowledge. Nonlinear objected to a bunch of stuff, and we tried our best to summarize their objections in the post (in the section that is a summary of Nonlinear's position). Lightcone did not (and continues to not) have the capacity to fully validate every claim given to us, though like, we did spend close to a thousand hours in terms of talking to sources and trying to validate and fact-check the things that were given to us. This included talking to Nonlinear and engaging with their evidence, though we were quite limited in what things our sources allowed us to share with them before publication.

Given this, I am not really sure wh... (read more)

Hm, a lot I disagree with here, but a crux is that I think you're not really replying to TracingWoodgrain's original point, which was that Ben knew there might be significant evidence contradicting much of his post but decided not to wait for it and published anyways (which TW considers to be a bad norm). Instead you seem to be changing frame to "did Ben publish anything which he knew for sure wasn't true", which is quite different, particularly in this case where evidence is deliberately not being looked at.

3habryka
Ah, sorry, I did understand your question to be about the latter. That's just a relatively straightforward misunderstanding. Might write more on the former. 
[-]Daniel 1213

Spencer sent us a screenshot about the vegan food stuff 2 hours before publication, which Ben didn't get around to editing in before the post went live, but that's all the evidence that I know about that you could somehow argue we had but didn't include. It is not accurate that Nonlinear sent credible signals of having counterevidence before the post went live

Uh, actually I do think that being sent screenshots showing that claims made in the post are false 2 hours before publication is a credible signal that Nonlinear has counterevidence.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m currently leaning towards the position that Lightcone deserves to be sued for defamation. Maybe not for “maximum damages permitted by law” (since those are truly excessive), but you probably owe them significant material compensation.

8habryka
Sorry, can you please explain what you would have liked us to do at this point? It's 2 hours to publication, which is a major undergoing basically launching something that has been worked on for hundreds of hours.  The screenshots relate to one claim in a post with many dozens of claims, and do not directly falsify what is said in the post, but seem to relate to them in a somewhat complicated manner (see this discussion on the post). We are getting dozens of calls by Nonlinear who are, from our perspective, using a bunch of really quite aggressive tactics to prevent publication of this post at the same time. Please specify concretely what you would have liked us to do instead? Completely halt publication of the post, against the direct promises we made to our sources, who have shown us credible evidence that they are worried about retaliation? I think the right thing to do is to leave a comment with the evidence, which we were indeed going to do if Kat hadn't already done that within an hour of publication of the post. Please be concrete what you would have liked us to do instead? I don't think the screenshots were some kind of major smoking gun or whatever, they were a piece of evidence that was definitely related to one of the claims, but definitely not the kind of thing that would cause me to immediately update and throw out or delay the whole post.

Concretely, here's what you should have done instead:

Pause. Wait. Delay. Completely halt publication of the post, against the direct promises you made to your sources, who have shown you credible evidence that they are worried about retaliation. Make your excuses, make your apologies, recognize that you are on the verge of publishing a partial narrative aimed at dealing serious reputational damage to someone in your sphere, and take a moment to absolutely ensure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed. 

If you receive concrete evidence that you are about to publish a falsehood aimed at inflicting material harm on someone, your duty is simply not to do that. If you are scrambling on the last day to update clear material falsehoods in your post, as Spencer reports with the company reviews, something has failed in your fact-checking process, and you should grimace, take a deep breath, and pause publication until you have things figured out.

Of course Nonlinear was using aggressive tactics. There's no truly returning from reputational damage inflicted by a post of that sort. Even if a response sways some people, it will at best always result in a sharp community divide, w... (read more)

[-]habryka17-17

I think the approximate result of this tactic is that we would have never been able to publish such a post (because Nonlinear would have been capable of producing an infinite trickle of relevant-seeming evidence that requires extensive investigation to thoroughly debunk), and that our sources would have been heavily retaliated against and would have regretted talking to us in the first place.

You are free to argue that such posts should approximately never be written, and I am interested in that argument. But I think our willingness to pay to make any kind of investigation in this space happen, and the diligence with which we went about this, including on the dimension of gathering contradicting evidence, is a vast and far outlier for stuff like this. 

If you want anyone to do this kind of thing, you need to be OK with a lower standard for information propagation. And maybe you just don't want posts like this, that's OK. I do think this kind of post is really important and crucial and I desperately wish there were more of them. 

[-]jefftk3332

Nonlinear would have been capable of producing an infinite trickle of relevant-seeming evidence

It reads to me that NL was asking for a specific amount of time to provide you with evidence, and you could have prevented this turning into unbounded delay by saying something like "you've asked for a week to gather evidence, and we'll consider evidence you provide by [168hr in the future]".

our sources would have been heavily retaliated against

Have you elaborated somewhere on this?

6habryka
Yeah, I am sorry, I think I was exaggerating the alternative here.  I do think we kind of did this with our original email and set of calls to them, and then they asked us for an additional week, and we said no. I think it's pretty plausible we should have waited an additional week, and I also felt really conflicted and sad about this at the time. I do think it's not reasonable to treat declining a request for an additional week as some kind of major and extreme faux pas, especially given the threat of libel and other types of what still seem to me to be undue forms of pressure that were applied.  So in that week Nonlinear sends a giant pile of evidence, which I expect I would not have found very compelling (though I am sure it would have probably been capable of falsifying some relatively minor points). 
[-]jefftk2714

I do think we kind of did this with our original email and set of calls to them, and then they asked us for an additional week, and we said no.

How much of the claims made in the post did you share with them in the original email (or soon after, if you want to start the "clock" then) vs later?

(It sounds to me like there were many claims they believed were false that weren't shared with them until quite close to publication, which matters quite a bit for interpreting the request for a week to provide evidence)

((Your phrasing of "additional week" here and above is weird because it implies they had already had a week during which they knew the post's claims and could be providing conflicting evidence, which I think you're not claiming.))

We shared a 2000 word high-level summary of all important claims made in the original post, as far as I can tell. I sadly can't share it in-full here because a bunch of the information would be deanonymizing, but I would be happy to set up a call and show you the email, or answer any specific questions you have about what evidence was shared. 

Here is an overview including a bunch of quotes of what we sent Nonlinear then (and if you think this is important I can also fully remove all deanonymizing information from the email, which would take me on the order of an hour or two, and share it with you):

  • Basic information about when Nonlinear was founded and who worked there during the relevant period
  • Basic details about when Alice and Chloe worked there
  • That Chloe's salary was verbally agreed to be $75k/year, with $1k/month in stipend and the rest in food/board/travel, which ultimately (according to Chloe and Alice) did not actually add up to $75k/year
  • That Alice joined as the sole person in the incubation program, and that she received no salary for the first months of traveling with Nonlinear
  • That Alice often had less than $1000 in her bank account and would often rack up substantial
... (read more)
7jefftk
I'm confused by the heavy disagree-voting on this comment. Are people saying with their votes that this does not actually cover all the important claims in the post? If someone who disagree-voted (or otherwise disagrees) wanted to comment I'd find that illuminating!
5gjm
One of habryka's other comments in this thread suggests that someone (or some small group of people, or some single person with sockpuppets) is downvoting literally everything habryka posts in this thread. It would be nice if there were some way for someone with no conflict of interest to investigate that...
6KatWoods
Where are you getting the idea that Ben gave us a week? The draft was sent to us on the same day Ben said he was going to publish it. On a day Ben knew we were traveling and wouldn't be able to respond properly (sketchy/no internet, chaos of traveling, etc).  We spoke to Ben 60 hours before he published, and he only told us a subset of all the accusations. A quick re-reading of the post and I found 14 allegations that were new that Ben hadn't discussed on the call. And I only got a short way through re-reading the post (maybe a 20%?) because I find reading it extremely painful. 

I posted an approximately full list of claims you were informed of 4 days before publishing.

Would you be able to highlight any important claims that were not included in that list of claims? It is totally possible there are some, but having cross-check the two, I can't find any major ones.

2jefftk
Were these fourteen included in the email Ben sent ~5d out (that Habryka summarizes here) and just not discussed on the call, or are you saying that the fourteen were first introduced to you with the final draft?
2KatWoods
First introduced to me in the draft.
8jefftk
Thanks! If you were up for listing some of these fourteen I'd find it really helpful!
4faul_sname
Strongly positive/negative relative to what? Relative to being more accurate initially, sure. Relative to being wrong but just not acknowledging it, no.

Specifically, I think people by default read this post as an example of good epistemic practice in a community built around good epistemic practice. In this case, though, I think the prior bad epistemic practice (not waiting for full information before publishing a highly consequential piece aimed at inflicting reputational damage on someone) is significant enough and bad enough that emphasizing a plan to update after the fact should be viewed primarily through the lens of damage control. 

The standard with this sort of investigative piece should be to gather information of this nature prior to publication to whatever extent possible, where updating on new information after-the-fact is praiseworthy only if that information was not realistically knowable prior to publication. 

You're correct that it's better than being wrong but not acknowledging it, but I think that's a well-established standard in this sphere and there's a stronger need to update based on the importance of gathering relevant information prior to publication.

5faul_sname
Is anyone acting like that is not a damage control measure? I upvoted specifically because "do damage control" is better than "don't". Usually when I see a hit piece, and later there are a bunch of inaccuracies that come to light, I don't in fact see that damage control done afterwards. Also I think this kind of within-tribe conflict gets lots of attention within the EA and LW social sphere. I expect that if Ben publishes corrections a bunch of people will read them.
5TracingWoodgrains
My read is that many people still consider the publication of the original post to be prudent and responsible given the circumstances, while any updates based on information that comes to light here will be prudent and responsible given the new information. Instead, I think people should view the original post as imprudent and irresponsible to the extent that it did not give one side of an adversarial situation an adequate hearing-out (and it really seems like it didn't: a three-hour phone call where you misleadingly summarize their response as "Good summary!", then refuse to wait until they can provide a more substantive response, is extraordinarily bad practice given the hundreds of hours he mentions putting into the rest of the investigation), with any subsequent updates being judged as returning towards responsibility after the fact rather than continuing a pattern of prudence.

Epistemic Status, this whole thing exhausts me but I think Nonlinear do get to ask me to take seriously this evidence. I would really like to be able to edit this as people respond, but y'all hate that, so I dunno. But I will probably change my mind on at least1point (80%) and clarify at least 3 if we have a big discussion (90%)

Tl;dr

  • Edit I didn't update much from the original piece and so I didn't update much on this one either. I think this makes my views quite weird tbh.
  • Nonlinear was likely a hard-mode place to work but I'm not sure that's awful
  • Nonlinear seem to move pretty quickly from collaborate mode to conflict mode. Quicker than I do, at least
  • CEA, LessWrong and funders get to decide who they let in and who they don't.  A boundary against behaviour like this for a org to be represented at EAG doesn't seem crazy to me. 
  • This evidence updates me a little
    • That nonlinear are less "a bit dishonest" and more "technically honest, but very hard to negotiate with"
    • The suing thing looks even worse than I thought, given how I don't think that relevant info is deeply wrong. (edit - to me, threats of legal action are a huge escalation, but others less so)
    • That Pace could should have
... (read more)

Just read your comment again and there were a few things that I felt strong disagreement toward. One was you saying that

The stories from Chloe and Alice painted a picture of Non-Linear. A close, ambitious, high-stress, often renegotiated environment."

This feels like a pretty big euphemism for Ben's piece, which paints Nonlinear as cruel and abusive.

2Nathan Young
You can read my comments at the time, I don't think I considered Nonlinear as cruel or abusive. I guess that I might describe the worst of their behaviour like that, maybe, but people behave within broad ranges.  

Ah perhaps I misunderstood you then -- it sounds like this quote was specifically your own takeaway from reading Ben's original article, rather than a characterization of the article itself. It's possible that I'm seeing your position a bit better now -- previously I thought you largely agreed with Ben's article, but on another reread of your comment it seems that you generally hold significantly more moderate view on Nonlinear. (Although your other comment implies that you do believe "Ben's account holds up", so I remain confused.)

1Nathan Young
Well I guess I can only talk about my takeaways from Ben's article. Like who gets to say what Ben's article really means? I think probably you should see my reading as pretty different to the median reading. I think I can justify that but if I had realised how differently you all read the article I would have said sooner.
8DaystarEld
FWIW I think my main takeaway here is that if you update at all on any point of untrustworthiness of the original sources, that update should propagate toward the rest of the points. I think most brains are bad at this, naturally, and it's just a hard thing to do without effort, which is why things like Gish gallops and character assassinations work even when debunked. My secondary takeaway is that people should not update as hard as they do on people threatening to "retaliate" against social harm done to them unless the claims are very obviously true or the "retaliation" is very obviously false. If we don't know if they're true or not, then what the accuser feels is "retribution" will be felt by the accused as "justice," and I think that both are natural feelings most people would have, but most people have not been publicly pilloried and so cannot connect as easily with the empathy for that position.
4Vlad Firoiu
There's a lot in here but I was immediately confused by "Nonlinear seem to move pretty quickly from collaborate mode to conflict mode. Quicker than I do, at least". My understanding is that they were hearing about their ex-employees saying damaging untrue things for over a year but chose not to retaliate partly because they didn't want to hurt their ex-employees' reputations, until Ben forced their hand with his deliberately one-sided "Sharing Information" post. That sounds fairly (some might say overly) collaborative to me. Edit: Here by "retaliate" I mean defending themselves in the way they did with this post, which does have the side effect of harming Alice and Chloe's reputations. Even then, they purposefuly decided not to de-anonymize their employees, and have a section on how they don't consider them to have had ill intentions.
3Nathan Young
What is the best example of an untrue thing that Ben said? Perhaps I struggle because I took it literally when Pace said that Alice was a bit unreliable.

Just to clarify, I was specifically referring to untrue things that the employees said, not Ben (and likewise retaliation against the employees, not against Ben).

If the line you're taking is that "Ben technically only relayed information given to him by Alice, while admitting that she might be unreliable", I don't think that's very tenable. Publishing like that is implicitly an endorsement, and unlike you I suspect most people ignored the disclaimer, because it would be strange for someone to publish such damaging things that they actually weren't sure were true. This comment I made on Ben's original post also touches on this.

Ben definitely did pretty extensive due-diligence for all claims from Alice that made it into the post, to the degree to which it was possible to do what without engaging even more extensively with Nonlinear itself, which was hard because of the preferences of many of our sources (and like, I think for the sake of calibrating people on the reliability of sources, I think it is better practice to include statements and counter-statements in a post like this, since it puts what people said on the record, which then allows people to judge other things that person has said).

[-]Daniel 3540

I think what is bugging me about this whole situation is that there doesn't seem to be any mechanism of accountability for the (allegedly) false and/or highly misleading claims made by Alice. You seem to be saying something like, "we didn't make false and/or highly misleading claims, we just repeated the false and/or highly misleading claims that Alice told us, then we said that Alice was maybe unreliable," as if this somehow makes the responsibility (legal, ethical, or otherwise) to tell the truth disappear. 

Here is what Ben said in his post, Closing Notes on Nonlinear Investigation:

"Eventually, after getting to talk with Alice and Chloe, it seemed to me Alice and Chloe would be satisfied to share a post containing accusations that were received as credible. They expected that the default trajectory, if someone wrote up a post, was that the community wouldn't take any serious action, that Nonlinear would be angry for "bad-mouthing" them, and quietly retaliate against them (by, for instance, reaching out to their employer and recommending firing them, and confidentially sharing very negative stories). They wanted to be confident that any accusations made would be strong enough

... (read more)

I think there is totally some shared responsibility for any claims that Ben endorsed, and I also think the post could have done a better job at making many things more explicit quotes, so that they would seem less endorsed, where Ben's ability to independently verify them was limited.

I don't think any retaliation against Alice is unacceptable. I think if Alice did indeed make important accusatory claims that were inaccurate, she should face some consequences. I think Ben and Lightcone should also lose points for anything that seems endorsed in the post, or does not have an explicit disclaimer right next to the relevant piece of text, that is verified to be false.

We're working on some comments and posts that engage with that question more thoroughly, and I expect we will take responsibility for some errors here. I also still believe that the overall standard of care and attention in this investigation was really very high, and I expect won't be met by future investigations by different people. Some errors are unavoidable given the time available to do this, and the complexity of the situation.

In as much as Ben's central claims in the post are falsified, then I think that would be pretty massive and would make me think we made a much bigger mistake, but that seems quite unlikely to me at this point (though more of that in future comments).

[-]jefftk147

I think if Alice did indeed make important accusatory claims that were inaccurate, she should face some consequences.

What sort of consequences are you thinking could apply, given that she made these accusations pseudonymously and I assume doxxing and libel suits are off limits?

0habryka
I don't know, and agree it's messy, but also it doesn't seem hopeless.  I think there will be some degree to which clearly demonstrating that false accusations were made will ripple out into the social graph naturally (even with the anonymization), and will have consequences. I also think there are some ways to privately reach out to some smaller subset of people who might have a particularly good reason to know about this.  I think if the accusations are very thoroughly falsified and shown to be highly deceptive in their presentation, I can also imagine some scenarios where it might make sense to stop anonymizing, though I think the bar for that does seem pretty high.
[-]Larks1915

I think there will be some degree to which clearly demonstrating that false accusations were made will ripple out into the social graph naturally (even with the anonymization), and will have consequences. I also think there are some ways to privately reach out to some smaller subset of people who might have a particularly good reason to know about this. 

If this is an acceptable resolution, why didn't you just let the problems with NonLinear ripply out into the social graph naturally?

[-]habryka2412

I think that's a good question, and indeed I think that should be the default thing that happens!

In this case we decided to do something different because we received a lot of evidence that Nonlinear was actively suppressing negative information about them. As Ben's post states, the primary reason we got involved with this was that we heard Nonlinear was actively pressuring past employees to not say bad things about them, and many employees we talked to fely very scared of retribution if they told anyone about this, even privately, as long as it could somehow get back to Nonlinear:

Most importantly to me, I especially [wanted to write this post] because it seems to me that Nonlinear has tried to prevent this negative information from being shared

For me the moment I decided that it would be good for us to dedicate substantial time to this was when I saw the "your career in EA could be over in a few messages" screenshot messages. I think if someone starts sending messages like this, different systems need to kick in to preserve healthy information flow.

(In case people are confused about the vote totals here and in other parts of the thread, practically all my comments on this post regardless of content, have been getting downvoted shortly after posting with a total downvote strength of 10, usually split over 2-3 votes. I also think there is a lot of legitimate voting in this thread, but I am pretty sure in this specific pattern.)

5Nathan Young
This matches my experience too. When I initially made pretty milquetoast criticisms here all of my comments went down by ~10.
3Lukas_Gloor
An organization gets applications from all kinds of people at once, whereas an individual can only ever work at one org. It's easier to discreetly contact most of the most relevant parties about some individual than it is to do the same with an organization. I also think it's fair to hold orgs that recruit within the EA or rationalist communities to slightly higher standards because they benefit directly from association with these communities. That said, I agree with habryka (and others) that 
[-]Larks127

I agree in general, but think the force of this is weaker in this specific instance because NonLinear seems like a really small org. Most of the issues raised seem to be associated with in-person work and I would be surprised if NonLinear ever went above 10 in-person employees. So at most this seems like one order of magnitude in difference. Clearly the case is different for major corporations or orgs that directly interact with many more people. 

[-]habryka13-2

Note that one of the reasons why I cared about getting this report out was that Nonlinear was getting more influential as a middleman in the AI Safety funding ecosystem, through which they affected many people's lives and I think had influence beyond what a naive headcount would suggest. The Nonlinear network had many hundreds of applications. 

As a personal example, I also think Lightcone, given that its at the center of a bunch of funding stuff, and infrastructure work, should also be subject to greater scrutiny than specific individuals, given the number of individuals that are affected by our work. And we are about the same size as Nonlinear, I think.

6Vlad Firoiu
Ok, so it sounds like a crux for you is that Ben in fact had high confidence in what he was relaying from Alice being true. In a dispute like this I don't think you can do very good due diligence when avoiding the people who are most likely to have counter-evidence; even if it is well-intentioned, it's a sort of conscious confirmation bias. Ben sort of admits to using poor epistemics in his disclaimer (at the top of his original post) about how to update from reading his post, but doesn't seem to update much on this himself (?), which seems like an error to me particularly when the stakes are this high. Perhaps it's unnecessary, but I will also point out that deliberately using poor epistemics feels pretty contrary to the spirit of rationality, which for good reason has fought for truth and against poor epistemics. (I further argue against the premise of the disclaimer and Ben posting without hearing both sides here).
7Nathan Young
No I'm not saying that. I am saying about halfway between that and "Ben's account holds up". What specifically is the most grievous error here.

I'm not really sure what we're arguing at this point. My initial reply was about how collaborative Nonlinear had been, which I don't think you've addressed and isn't particularly related to whether Ben said true things. I'd also add that in my view Ben posting without getting Nonlinear's side of the story was itself pretty uncollaborative, and so the "retaliation" against him (in the form of criticizing him for the way he wrote his post) to me seems entirely justified.

Thinking about this more, my guess is that by "uncollaborative" you were specifically referring to Nonlinear's threat to file for libel against Ben. I agree you could call it that, but I don't see it as disproportionate given the adversarial nature of Ben's investigation and the massive cost it has had on Nonlinear. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on this point.

Ok, so I'm guessing your position is that a) you, having read Nonlinear's reply, continue to believe that most of what Ben relayed from Alice was true, and b) if a few things turn out to be untrue it's not a big deal because it doesn't change the overall story, and in any case Ben admitted that Alice might be unreliable.

I'm not entirely sure how you weigh (a) and (b) but it makes more sense to me if your crux is (a), that most of Alice's claims are true. For that, I'm not sure where to start; as far as I've seen they all seem to be false. I guess we could start with the claims about not being paid, e.g. from Ben's high level overview:

Salary negotiations were consistently a major stressor for Alice’s entire time at Nonlinear. Over her time there she spent through all of her financial runway, and spent a significant portion of her last few months there financially in the red (having more bills and medical expenses than the money in her bank account) in part due to waiting on salary payments from Nonlinear. She eventually quit due to a combination of running exceedingly low on personal funds and wanting financial independence from Nonlinear, and as she quit she gave Nonlinear (on thei

... (read more)
  • Alice "wasn't getting paid" only due to her own rather strange mistakes, such as not logging her expenses or not checking her own bank account to see that the money was actually there.
  • Alice eventually got to choose her own salary.
  • Alice claimed to be making significant income from her side business.

I would currently like to register (before people assume the above is true) that I am quite confident that the three claims in this quote are inaccurate (based on both existing evidence and more recent evidence that I was shown).

I expect Ben will elaborate on this in his fuller response, but it seemed good to clarify this, and set expectations about which claims I am pretty sure will be falsified.

[-]philh11-1

Alice claimed to be making significant income from her side business.

To clarify further, my read of things is that you think the inaccurate claim would be

  • Alice was in fact making significant income from her side business.

but that you wouldn't dispute

  • Alice claimed to NL that she was making significant income from her side business.

Is that right? Or do you additionally think the second is inaccurate?

8habryka
We have very compelling evidence of the first being false. I would also absolutely dispute the second. Alice has told Nonlinear that if she worked on her Amazon business full-time, she would make $3000/mo, which seems right though maybe a bit optimistic to me (but of course she wasn't working on it full-time while she was working for Nonlinear). That to me fully explains the screenshot that Nonlinear posted[1], which is the only direct evidence presented, and indeed seems more consistent with what Emerson is saying (why would he be referring to a total net-income of $3k/mo otherwise, if at this point Alice was already working for Nonlinear and so presumably was now making at least $4k/mo and more like $7k-9k/mo if you count benefits). 1. ^
1KatWoods
This text was sent on November 4th, almost a month before she arrived to come travel with us (not to work for us). Emerson is not referring to her saying she would make $3000 a month if she worked full-time on her Amazon business. The context of the conversation is she's trying to figure out whether she should spend an additional $90 to visit her family before joining us, and Emerson is replying saying "If you make $3k a month [$90] is very little money", so he's telling her she should spend the $90 to spend time with family. Directly going against the "keeping her isolated from family" story and also supporting (albeit not conclusively proving) that Alice had told him she made $3k per month with her business. 
6habryka
Sure! I could have checked the date, but in that case this evidence also doesn't support your case here. If indeed she was making $3000/mo at that point in time (which, to be clear, I don't think you've demonstrated), working on it with much more of her time than she would while she was working at Nonlinear, wouldn't this be basically confirmation that she wasn't going to make $3000/mo while working with Nonlinear, given that she was spending much less time on it?  The relevant claim at hand is whether she ever made $3000/mo at the same time as she was working with you at Nonlinear (and you heavily implied that that is what she claimed here). I would be quite surprised if Alice ever claimed this was the case to you.
1isabel
this seems like a comment that it seems reasonable to disagree with (e.g. think that habryka is wrong and subsequent evidence will not show what he predicts it will show) but it seems straightforwardly good epistemics to make clear predictions about which claims will and won't be falsified in the upcoming post, so I'm not sure why this comment is as being downvoted more than disagree voted (or downvoted at all).  am I confused about what karma vs agreement voting is supposed to signify? 
7habryka
Approximately all my comments on this thread have been downvoted like this, as soon as they were posted. There are definitely some people with strong feelings downvoting a lot of things on this post very quickly, though most comments end up clawing themselves back into positive karma after a few hours.
9Nathan Young
I can believe she is being precise without conveying an accurate picture. I am not sure that I ever thought that alice's account was the most accurate version of events.

[crossposted from EA Forum, to emphasise an important point. hope that's OK! will delete if it isn't]

How do we prevent the methodology of exclusively seeking and publishing negative information, without fact checking, from becoming an acceptable norm?

Re: Checking that claims are true

Adding on as former Nonlinear intern who was aware of a “falling out” between Alice and Nonlinear for almost a year now:

  1. To my knowledge, Nonlinear was given very few/practically no opportunities to respond to the many claims made in “Sharing Information About Nonlinear” before they were posted, despite repeatedly communicating for several months that this counter-evidence was available to Ben and some CEA employees.
  2. I understand that the power asymmetry, high-trust environment and ethical standards within EA makes this complicated to resolve. However, my issue is that the vast majority of the claims made were easily verifiable/falsifiable. Things like payment/lack of payment, delivery orders, messages, receipts, who stayed where etc. all have paper trails. If it's so trivially easy to verify, there is a responsibility to verify!

I’m not against Ben and Alice choosing to post this. I believe we s... (read more)

Whatever people think about this particular reply by Nonlinear, I hope it's clear to most EAs that Ben Pace could have done a much better job fact-checking his allegations against Nonlinear, and in getting their side of the story.

In my comment on Ben Pace's original post 3 months ago, I argued that EAs & Rationalists are not typically trained as investigative journalists, and we should be very careful when we try to do investigative journalism -- an epistemically and ethically very complex and challenging profession, which typically requires years of training and experience -- including many experiences of getting taken in by individuals and allegations that seemed credible at first, but that proved, on further investigation, to have been false, exaggerated, incoherent, and/or vengeful.

EAs pride ourselves on our skepticism and our epistemic standards when we're identifying large-scope, neglected, tractable causes areas to support, and when we're evaluating different policies and interventions to promote sentient well-being. But those EA skills overlap very little with the kinds of investigative journalism skills required to figure out who's really telling the truth, in contexts... (read more)

Ehhh, I don't really agree. To me the load bearing facts seem about right. I empathise that not much was to be gained by painstakingly discussing every detail. Pace was pretty clear how much was hearsay. I would have liked more room for response until the suing threat came.  At that point, yeah, publish.

I fundamentally disagree with the way a lot of rationalists are treating the threat of legal action. The legal system is a failsafe to ensure means for protection against serious misbehavior. Based on this post, I think Nonlinear is correct to assert that several of the claims in the original article were false and likely libelous. Legal action in response to libelous claims aimed at destroying your reputation in your community is not escalatory, it is proportionate, and a threat of it should be a reminder that the situation is serious, not treated as casus belli to publish any and all information.

I think that the threat to sue could have been okay if there were significant errors in Pace's piece, but what are they? What specific phrases do you think are likely libelous.

To me, the threat to sue over minor inaccuracies, usually clearly marked as "Alice said" etc and given Alice was described as an unreliable narrator, seems like a bad norm and one I want to push back against. 

Also I think the legal system is really dysfunctional. It seems that Nonlinear was creating an environment where it was hard to report accurately about them and to sue people who write articles like this would, I think further that, whether they would win or not. They have that right, sure, but respect them less for the threat, especially given, personally the article itself doesn't seem to allege awful behaviour in my view.

As the publisher, Ben has a duty beyond simply uncritically repeating a source’s claims, if he knew or had reason to know those claims are materially false—including not taking reasonable steps to verify truth. The claim about being asked to transport illegal recreational drugs across a border is the most immediately clear one to me. Nonlinear told him it was false, had screenshots available to the contrary, and he published it. Whether he preceded it with “Alice says” makes little difference in terms of either moral or legal responsibility.

I respect that you don’t see the allegations as awful, but it looks like they had a dramatically negative effect on the reputation of the organization as a whole. The bar for writing something that has dramatic negative effects on someone’s reputation is and should be high; the court of public opinion is no better or more functional than the court of law.

It seems fundamentally inaccurate to me to treat lawsuit threats as an escalation to the decision to publish something that will destroy an organization’s reputation within their own community. Whatever the merits of any specific suit, those are equally adversarial decisions and the one is a proportionate response to the other, not an escalation.

Pace reports Nonlinear said they did ask for people to bring illegal recreational drugs over the border for them. Have they claimed he was lying when he reports them here:

"Third; the semi-employee was also asked to bring some productivity-related and recreational drugs over the border for us. In general we didn't push hard on this. For one, this is an activity she already did (with other drugs). For two, we thought it didn't need prescription in the country she was visiting, and when we found out otherwise, we dropped it. And for three, she used a bunch of our drugs herself, so it's not fair to say that this request was made entirely selfishly. I think this just seems like an extension of the sorts of actions she's generally open to"

Again, I don't care about this much, but Pace can't be accused of not following the facts if Nonlinear said they did something very similar to the thing they are accused of on another occasion, right?

Pace says "I bring this up as an example of the sorts of requests that Kat/Emerson/Drew felt comfortable making during Alice’s time there."

Pace reports Nonlinear as saying "I think this just seems like an extension of the sorts of actions she's generally open to"

Looks pretty similar to me. Sometimes people take drugs across borders. That's on them, but if you're asking employees to do it, then that's the kind of thing you ask employees to do. 

My understanding is that they are addressing the same event (pharmacy for antibiotics and ADHD meds) in all locations, and they make it clear in his post they dispute every part of his frame about that event, including his presentation of their response as basically agreeing with him.

I’m not sure the value in focusing on a specific story when I’m making a general behavioral claim, though. My stance is this:

If (1) you inform someone that you are going to publish something that will be severely detrimental to their reputation and (2) they assert you are making several materially false claims in that publication, claims they have hard evidence exist, then (3) it is unreasonable not to wait to review that evidence, and (4) a libel suit is proportionate, not escalatory, in response to the actual publication of falsehoods that severely damage someone’s reputation.

From those, it follows that warning of a potential libel suit in advance of publication should absolutely not be read as “I am being unreasonably threatened and therefore should publish immediately to stand up to bullies.” It should be read as “I am entering a serious, mutually adversarial situation and I should be absolutely su... (read more)

7Nathan Young
I think a legal threat is like a bet "I'm so confident that you are wrong that I'm going to waste both of our time and cause huge amounts of damage". I currently think they lose that bet. The best example of libel you can find is small and I am pretty uncertain of it. I can imagine going either way. I consider a libel suit a weighty thing to threaten and if you do there better be a serious reason. I don't see it. So it should come with big costs. To me, it's a bigger threat than the discrepancies I see here.
[-]gwern1413

I think a legal threat is like a bet “I’m so confident that you are wrong that I’m going to waste both of our time and cause huge amounts of damage”.

No, it's not. That's nothing like how legal threats work in the real world.

9Nathan Young
What are legal threats like in the real world? I've been threated with legal action once (by Jay Z's record company for a parody I made) and it felt like a bet. I probably could win if I spent a lot of money, but I didn't have that money and so I took the song down. 

“I’m going to expend both of our time and cause huge amounts of damage” happened upon publication of the initial allegations. It was guaranteed to happen upon publication of the initial allegations. It was, in simple fact, the expected result of the initial allegations.

The original post was a weighty decision and if you post it there has better be a serious reason. A legal case is procedurally more weighty than inflicting massive reputational damage on someone in their own community, but it’s not clear that it’s morally more weighty, and treating it as escalatory feels like a category error no matter who you think wins the overall “bet” between Ben and Nonlinear.

Sure, but I think that Ben win's that bet. To me it looks like the reputational adjustment he sought was worth it. 

The libel case, not so much.

And I think the libel case wastes a huge amount more resources and currently it doesn't improve Nonlinear's reputation. After the case, I guess, or reading this file I think I'm pretty static on before it. 

“I’m correct in seeking to inflict enormous reputational damage on you, therefore you are unjustified in responding with a threat of legal action, and your threat of legal action justifies me refusing to proactively examine promised exculpatory evidence” is the position I hear you endorsing, and I find it bizarre.

No! You can’t enter an adversarial frame, then object when people accurately treat it as adversarial and use their adversarial response as an excuse to avoid due diligence! That is not, or should not be, how any of this sort of investigative journalism works.

How about

"I’m correct in seeking to inflict large reputational damage on you because I can back up my claims, but should escale with a threat of legal action without seemingly being likely to win it,  your frivolous threat of legal action justifies me reducing my engagement with this process"

You're right that I feel less certain of this. But I do think there is a difference between accusations you can back up and those you can't. 

I guess I don't see it as adversarial to reveal the truth. I don't sense Pace was being directed about this. The libel threat feels directed.

I guess I think you see the two parties as the the same in some key way. I don't. 

No. He knew he was operating on partial information; he knew they had a great deal of information they were willing to give him in a short time span; he had no way of evaluating the quality of the evidence they would give before they would give it. He was not justified in half-doing his job whether or not they were being unpleasant in response—a threat of legal action is emphatically not an excuse to avoid considering their evidence prior to publication or rushing publication unless it becomes clear they are unreasonably delaying. A week or two, in response to serious allegations, is not an unreasonable delay, and no matter the ultimate strength of their story he neglected his responsibility to proactively understand it.

he knew they had a great deal of information they were willing to give him in a short time span

This seems likely false given how long this process took.

he had no way of evaluating the quality of the evidence they would give before they would give it

I could agree, though it's unclear when the threat was made. If after the initial call then this isn't true.

 

Yeah I still think he should have initially offered a week. I say as much. On the shortening, i don't know.

When they asked for, and were denied, one week to compile evidence, I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude much of anything based on the final response process taking longer.

It’s absolutely adversarial to reveal the truth if the truth is harmful to someone. It’s critical to distinguish between “adversarial” and “bad.” Choosing to investigate a group over a long period of time and then publish information to damage them is fundamentally an adversarial act. Not a bad thing, but for one who aims to practice investigative journalism, vital to keep in mind.

If your goal is to reveal the truth and not to inflict harm on someone, you should wait until you have all sides as thoroughly as you can reasonably get them, and not cut that process short when the party you are making allegations against responds with understandable antagonism—until and unless they refuse to cooperate further and have no more useful information to give.

I also want to add that I think the community in general has shown a mild failure in treating the legal action threat as evidence of wrongdoing even if the lawsuit would ultimately fail.

It is really bad to treat a libel suit threat as some horrible thing that no one "innocent" would ever do. It's a form of demonizing anyone who has ever used or thought to use the legal system defensively.

Which if intended, seems to be fundentally missing what the point of a legal system should be. It is no doubt a problem that people with lots of power, whether it's fame or money or whatever, are more likely to win legal battles.

But it's also a way more truth oriented process than the court of public opinion. And many people who would have stood 0 chance of getting justice without it have gotten some through it.

Do such threats have a chilling effect on criticism? Of course, and that's a problem, particularly if they're used too often or too quickly.

But the solution cannot be "no one makes such threats no matter what." Because then there's no recourse but the court of public opinion, which is not something anyone should feel comfortable ceding their life and wellbeing to.

I think someone outside the ... (read more)

What the legal system should be is irrelevant.

I think I agree with that. But I think legal action is a big escalation. If they'd said, "we asked for more time and didn't get it" I think I'd have been a bit more on their side. 

Or if it turned out the legal action was warranted.

5RamblinDash
  Morally, I agree with you. Legally, I think you are not correct at least as pertains to US law, which has much higher standards to meet for defamation claims than most European countries. In the US, the truth of the statement is generally an absolute defense to liability. If I publish a story of the form "A says B committed a crime; B denies/disputes it", then in general I would not have liability if A in fact said that, because my statement was true (though A might have liability, of course).

My understanding of truth as an absolute defense to libel (disclaimer: law student, not lawyer, and referring to hastily examined case law, not deeply researched understanding) is that it refers to the truth of the core statement, not the truthful replication of defamation. In other words, I believe you can still be liable for publishing “A claims X” when X is false and you had reason to know that, depending on the circumstances.

[-]jefftk2318

If people are interested in reading more about this, I think the thing to look into is "republication liability", and in the US seems to be pretty unsettled, with some state-by-state variation.

It doesn't look like a bare defense of "I wrote 'Alice told me X' and can prove that Alice told me X" is sufficient, but it also looks like just demonstrating that X is false is not enough. Some considerations, depending on where you are:

  • Did the author know X was false?

  • Did the author put sufficient effort into assessing the truth of X?

  • Was the author acting as a neutral reporter of facts?

(Not a lawyer, or even a law student)

9jefftk
As these apply to the allegations in Ben's post: * Did the author know X was false? -- I doubt it, with the possible exception of not updating the post after receiving Spencer's screenshots 2-3hr before publication. * Did the author put sufficient effort into assessing the truth of X? -- Probably not, since the general goal was signal-boosting the concerns and the final 'adversarial' fact checking was quite short (especially for any allegations first raised in the draft NL received right before publishing). * Was the author acting as a neutral reporter of facts? -- Probably not, since Ben's post is pretty clearly trying to signal-boost a bunch of allegations about NL.
2RamblinDash
You could be right. I don't practice in this area and thus don't claim to have greater knowledge than you on this. I still disagree, but people should understand this is a sorta equal epistemic status disagreement.
9habryka
The original post is really quite careful in its epistemic status and in clearly referencing to sources claiming something. You could run this by a lawyer with experience in libel law, and I think they would conclude that a suit did not have much of a chance of success.

I am not a lawyer, and none of the following should be construed as legal advice, only a personal opinion about the scope of libel law based on a quick dive into relevant national court cases, with no attempt to address the merits of this situation specifically. I got curious about all of this and wanted to take a closer look at elements of the legal issues in play. I'm placing this comment here out of convenience, though it has relevance to my conversation with @RamblinDash as well.

I'll touch on a few legal points that seem relevant, though this is necessarily a partial list, filtered approximately by "what was easily in reach in the casebook I had on hand".

1. Referencing claims made by specific sources:

Under Restatement (Second) of Torts § 578, a broadly but not universally accepted summation of common law torts, someone who repeats defamatory material from someone else is liable to the same extent as if they were the original publisher, even if they mention the name of the original source and state they do not believe the claim. Claims of belief or disbelief, while not determinative, come into play when determining damages. 

Two important Supreme Court cases, St. Amant v. Th... (read more)

I also appreciate this!

5RamblinDash
Thanks for the research! I'm guessing that there's probably a lot of nuance here, such as if, e.g. the President falsely accuses someone, then the false accusation is independently newsworthy and that might be protective of the media outlet who repeated it while saying that it doesn't believe the President's accusation. But I've updated my view on the core question and disendorsed my initial comment.
5TracingWoodgrains
Yes, my understanding (again: not lawyer, not legal advice) is that a lot of that gets covered under the Fair Reporting privilege, which allows reporters to provide fair and accurate summaries of public meetings (eg rallies, speeches, Congress), including defamatory comments made by public officials at those meetings. It's also worth mentioning the broader Neutral Reportage privilege, adopted in a few jurisdictions but rejected in others, providing freedom to neutrally report untrue statements made by a public official or prominent organization, about a public figure or public official, relating to or creating a public controversy. Edwards v. National Audubon Soc'y, Inc., 556 F.2d 113 (2d Cir. 1977) (in which the New York Times faced lawsuits for reporting that the Audubon Society had accused several scientists of being paid by pesticide companies to lie) is the key case to look at there.
8TracingWoodgrains
I would be curious for that to occur and will make no confident proclamations about what they would or would not say. I suspect the epistemic status markers included are not nearly as protective as you would assume to the extent actual, materially harmful falsehoods were published, but I could be mistaken.
5purple_cat
"The original post is really quite careful in its epistemic status and in clearly referencing to sources claiming something." This is insufficient. See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/01/13/when-there-is-serious-reason-to-doubt-rumors-and-allegations-is-it-libelous-to-publish-them/  
4habryka
Yes, just citing someone is not sufficient, though from what I read it does still pretty substantially matter to how these kinds of suits go.  The more relevant dimension where this matters is that the prosecution would have to prove that Ben knew the information was inaccurate, which is a lot harder if the post is pretty clear about its sources and epistemic status and evidence that was available. 

I want to make a separate reply to register specifically in light of the downvotes you've attracted that while I disagree with your conclusions on the merits here, I think your mode of engagement on this is wholly appropriate and that the voting system is being, if not gamed, at least heavily influenced by people with strong emotional investment in the conflict at hand, which should be considered however the votes in the conversation wind up.

This is a better response than I was expecting. Definitely a few non-sequiturs (Ex: you can’t just add travel expenses onto a $1000/month salary and call that $70,000-$75,000 in compensation. The whole point of money is that it’s fungible and can be spent however you like), but the major accusations appear refuted.

The tone is combative, but if the facts are what Nonlinear alleges then a combative tone seems… appropriate? I’m not sure how I feel about the “Sharing Information About Ben Pace” section, but I do think it was a good idea to mention the “elephant in the room” about Ben possibly white-knighting for Alice, since that’s the only way I can get this whole saga to make sense.

major accusations appear refuted

Note that the accusations Nonlinear lists in the document, with quote marks, are sometimes quite different than what Ben Pace put in his post. So even if you think they've strongly refuted a particular accusation, that doesn't necessarily mean they've refuted something Ben said. 

[-]Daniel 2524

Yeah, I've been going back and checking things as they were stated in the original "Sharing Information About Nonlinear" post. Rereading it, I was surprised at how few specific loadbearing factual claims there were at all. Lots of "vibes-based reasoning" as they say. I think the most damning single paragraph with a concrete claim was:

  • Chloe’s salary was verbally agreed to come out to around $75k/year. However, she was only paid $1k/month, and otherwise had many basic things compensated i.e. rent, groceries, travel. This was supposed to make traveling together easier, and supposed to come out to the same salary level. While Emerson did compensate Alice and Chloe with food and board and travel, Chloe does not believe that she was compensated to an amount equivalent to the salary discussed, and I believe no accounting was done for either Alice or Chloe to ensure that any salary matched up. (I’ve done some spot-checks of the costs of their AirBnbs and travel, and Alice/Chloe’s epistemic state seems pretty reasonable to me.)

I think this is just false. Nonlinear provided enough screenshot evidence to prove that Chloe agreed to exactly the arrangement that she ultimately got. Yes, it was a... (read more)

In terms of relevant factual claims in the post, here are some more: 

  • "Chloe’s and Alice’s finances (along with Kat's and Drew's) all came directly from Emerson's personal funds (not from the non-profit). This left them having to get permission for their personal purchases"
  • "From talking with both Alice and Nonlinear, it turned out that by the end of Alice’s time working there, since the end of February Kat Woods had thought of Alice as an employee that she managed, but that Emerson had not thought of Alice as an employee, primarily just someone who was traveling with them and collaborating because she wanted to, and that the $1k/month plus other compensation was a generous gift."
  • "Over her time there she spent through all of her financial runway, and spent a significant portion of her last few months there financially in the red (having more bills and medical expenses than the money in her bank account)" (I think this one can be disputed depending on how the details of Alice's Amazon business shake out, and I also think depending on the details of the reimbursement situation)
  • "From talking with both Alice and Nonlinear, it turned out that by the end of Alice’s time working there,
... (read more)
[-]Daniel 1714

I did notice these. I specifically used the word "loadbearing" because almost all of these either don't matter much or their interpretation is entirely context-dependent. I focused on the salary bullet-point because failing to pay agreed salary is both 

1. A big deal, and 

2. Bad in almost any context. 

The other ones that I think are pretty bad are the Adderall smuggling and the driving without a license, but my prior on "what is the worst thing the median EA org has done" is somewhere between willful licensing noncompliance and illegal amphetamine distribution.

[-]habryka18-1

Hmm, at least for me many of the quotes above are substantially more load-bearing, but also not totally crazy that this differs between people. I do think in that case it might make sense to say "load bearing for my overall judgement of Nonlinear", since I (and Ben) do think many of the above are on a similar or higher level of being concerning than the salary point, and Ben intended to communicate that.

I also want to highlight that I do currently believe that Alice was asked to smuggle harder drugs across the border than Adderall (though the Adderall one seems confirmed), and that Nonlinear are disputing this because it will be hard to prove, not because its false (though I am also not like 90%+ confident).

[-]habryka16-1

I think this is just false. Nonlinear provided enough screenshot evidence to prove that Chloe agreed to exactly the arrangement that she ultimately got. Yes, it was a shitty job, but it was also a shitty job offer, and Chloe seems to have agreed to that shitty job offer. 

I don't think you can describe that paragraph as "straightforwardly false". 

It is correct that Chloe's compensation was verbally agreed to come out to around ~$70k-$82k a year (the $75k number comes from a conversation with Kat, Kat's job interview transcript seems to suggest the total compensation would be $70k of benefits plus $1k/mo of stipend for a total of $82k[1]), and that's why she was interested in the job. Nonlinear then offered a contract where $1k/mo of those $70k-$82k would be paid out as stipend, and she would be provided benefits adding up to the remainder (which wasn't specified in the contract, but was explained during the relevant interview which Kat posted the transcript off). 

However, the benefits did not add up to ~$60-$72k [2], and Nonlinear did not really have any accounting basis on which to claim that the benefits would add up to at least $60k-$72, which strikes me ... (read more)

Maybe I'm projecting more economic literacy than I should, but anytime I read something like "benefits package worth $X", I always decompose it into its component parts mentally. A benefits package nominally worth $X will provide economic value less than $X, because there is option value lost compared to if you were given liquid cash instead. 

The way I would conceptualize the compensation offered (and the way it is presented in the Nonlinear screenshots) is $1000/month + all expenses paid while traveling around fancy destinations with the family. I kind of doubt that Chloe had a mental model of how $40,000/yr in fancy travel destinations differs from $70,000/yr in fancy travel destinations. There could potentially be unrecorded verbal conversations that would make me feel differently about this, but I don't currently feel like Chloe got materially shafted other than that she probably didn't enjoy the travel as much as she thought she would.

Yeah, I agree that a compensation package costing $X will be worth less than $X, and as an employee it totally makes sense to adjust for that.

But then I think separately it's important that the package did actually cost $X, especially if the $X was supposed to include many of the things that determine your very basic quality of life, like food, toiletries, rent, basic transportation, medical care, etc. I also think it matters how far Chloe got into the hiring process of Nonlinear on the assumption that total compensation would be "equivalent to $X", which to be clear, I don't currently know the details off.

7KatWoods
She was interviewed three times and was told about compensation during the second interview. We only mentioned the "equivalent to" thing once in an offhand manner. Every single other communication that we have on record is just talking about all expenses paid plus a stipend. [Edit: it was actually two places we found. The other was on the job ad, saying "Compensation: $60,000 - $100,000"] And the compensation did not actually cost $70,000, like we said in that conversation. It cost more! We added up everything and shared it with her. She knew and didn't tell Ben. Worse, she told Ben the opposite. She told Ben no accounting had been done for that and showed him her own accounting that she knew was incomplete and thus inaccurate.
2jefftk
[EDIT: this was not the right job description; see below]   @Elizabeth  brought up what looks like the job description for Chloe's position, which has "Compensation: $60,000 - $100,000". These seem to be in tension?
4Daniel
Wait, that link goes to an archive page from well after Chloe was hired. When I look back to the screen captures from the period of time that Chloe would have seen, there are no specific numbers given for compensation (would link them myself, but I’m on mobile at the moment). If the ad that Chloe saw said $60,000 - $100,000 in compensation in big bold letters at the top, then that seems like a bait and switch, but the archives from late 2021 list travel as the first benefit, which seems accurate to what the compensation package actually was.
2jefftk
Good catch! That's quite weird -- why would you update a job ad to include compensation information after closing applications? Here are the versions I see: * 2021-10-22, 2021-11-18, 2021-12-03: "Pay: amount dependent on role fit and employee needs", "The application deadline is November 1st, 2021, midnight UK time" * 2022-07-03: "Application Deadline: July 21st", "Target Start Date: September", "Compensation: $60,000 - $100,000 / year". Ben's post has: So it looks to me like what we were looking at was a post-Chloe version, probably trying to hire her replacement, and the version Chloe would have seen didn't have that information.
2KatWoods
Ah, you're right. So we said twice how much we estimated the compensation package to be worth. Will edit original comment to reflect that. 
2jefftk
I'm sorry, as Daniel pointed out above this is from a later version of the job description, so this was all in the wrong direction.
2jefftk
I think this one is a bit different: with the interview it reads reasonably clearly to me that you're talking about a low amount of cash plus expenses, but the job ad doesn't say anything about that. Was the transcribed interview (which I think I remember you saying was the second one?) the first time you raised that almost all the compensation would be via covering expenses?
6Elizabeth
I don't think I'd feel much better about the situation if the travel expenses had added up to $70k. It's not reasonable to bill an employee for their boss's travel tastes (even people who like traveling rarely want to spend 80% of their income on it, and those that do want to choose their own trips). 
[-]jefftk129

even people who like traveling rarely want to spend 80% of their income on it

Two additional perspectives for looking at how much we should expect this to be a bad deal:

  • Spending 80% of your income on traveling is uncommon, but spending 80% of your income on housing, food, and transportation while paying a premium for living in a desirable location is actually pretty common among young professionals?

  • After graduating college I spent several months washing dishes for ~$200/wk, because I wanted to spend the summer at at a camp that charged vacationers ~$800/wk. I knew what I was getting into, had a good time, and don't feel like I was exploited.

I think "Chloe made an informed decision to do this" is a reasonable argument. I don't think the evidence so far proves that was what happened[1], but if proven I’d agree it answered my concern on this front.

But if that’s the argument, why bring up the amount Nonlinear spent on her at all? The question would be whether they covered the agreed upon expenses to the agreed upon level (no promising luxury housing and delivering tenements- admittedly unlikely to be the problem here- and no promising medical care and then arguing about necessary expenses- and it sounds like there was ambiguity on what would be covered there). Nonlinear could spend less than projections while still following the agreement and it would be fine. 

If you are calculating expenses, it's a mess. Many people do spend 80%+ of their income on housing, food, medical, etc, but you still can’t count $1 on housing your employer chose as equivalent to $1 on housing you chose. It's (probably) not $0 either, housing is housing, but figuring out the discount factor is hard even when everyone feels good about the situation. Figuring it out now seems impossible.

As I see it the options are:

  1. Nonlinear and Chloe agreed she’
... (read more)
[-]jefftk149
  1. Nonlinear and Chloe agreed she’d be paid travel expenses + a stipend. The $ total of the expenses is irrelevant as long as they covered what they said they would.

That's currently my view, yes. The evidence NL has provided for this (contract, texts, transcript) seems pretty strong to me, and while I could imagine Chloe presenting counter evidence (was never sent the contract, screenshots are misleadingly cropped) it's not what I'm expecting?

EDIT: But thanks for pointing out the job ad: if a role is advertised that way and someone applies expecting that I'd think there would be more than NL has said on the way to ending up with the arrangement they seem to have gone with. I've now asked Kat about it.

EDIT2: The job ad bit is all a red herring: it's post-Chloe and the original one just said "amount dependent on role fit and employee needs".

why bring up the amount Nonlinear spent on her at all?

Isn't it Ben and Chloe who are bringing this up? And then NL is engaging because the amount spent does seem to matter to some people?

4Elizabeth
  My original comment is pushing back against habryka doing so. 
2jefftk
Whoops, thanks! Lost the thread here...
3KatWoods
The evidence that she made an informed decision are: * Interview transcripts where you can see how we explained it to her. We recorded the actual conversation in question, so you don't have to try to guess * Work contract * Text messages she herself sent before joining us showing that she understood how the compensation package worked Her correctly explaining in her own words how the compensation package works seems like more than enough evidence that she understood the compensation package she was signing up for. The fact that we also sent her a work contract and also recorded the original conversation in question and you can see it yourself I think proves more than can usually ever be proven in such cases that she made an informed decision about the compensation package. 
8Elizabeth
Your document says you sent the contract to Chloe 6 days after her start date. When did she sign it? 
1Rebecca
FYI, when I click on some proportion (possibly 100%?) of these links to the Google doc (including the links in your comment here) it just takes me to the very start of Google doc, the beginning of the contents section, and I can’t always figure out which section to click on. Possibly a mobile issue with Google docs, but thought I should let you know 🙂
2KatWoods
Thanks for letting me know! Strange. It shouldn't be doing that. Usually if you wait a couple of seconds, it'll jump to the right section. It's working on both my mobile and laptop. If you try waiting a couple seconds and that doesn't work, let me know. Maybe DM me and then we can troubleshoot, then we can post the solution up when we figure it out. 
1Rebecca
Thanks for checking! Have now figured out the issue, the thing I described was happening when Google docs opened in safari (which I knew), but I’ve now gotten it to open in the app proper.
3KatWoods
Good points! Added some more points here as well.  The "spending 80% on travel" is quit misleading, because it comes from counting AirBnB costs as "travel" expenses. That would make sense if they were just traveling for a short period of time, say, to go to an EAG, but if you only live in AirBnBs, then counting that as travel instead of rent seems misleading.  If that's true, I have spent $0 on housing in the last 4 years, and that doesn't seem right.  If you don't count housing as a travel expense, then it comes to only 6% on travel, which is pretty reasonable given that we literally travel full-time.  (Also, it's irrelevant because rent shouldn't count as travel expenses, but even if we did count it, it would still only come out to 68%, not 80%. I don't know where this 80% is coming from.)
6jefftk
From the evidence above the deal was pretty clearly $1k/mo + NL pays for stuff. Reading the interview transcript, Kat's saying this can be thought of as being worth $70k isn't an offer to pay $70k with deductions for stuff. Now, Chloe clearly didn't end up liking the deal and I think the deal was probably not legal [1][2], but those are different objections! [1] When they were in Puerto Rico $1k/mo ($5.68/hr) was below the minimum wage. [2] Multijurisdictional employment is famously complex, and digital nomads commonly ignore the legal requirements of working from the various countries. I have no evidence on how NL handled this, but since it's so hard and so rarely done right my guess is NL commonly was employing Alice and Chloe illegally.
-1KatWoods
80% of the money we spent on their compensation was not going to travel. Copy-pasting comments from the thread over here where this number was originally said: " Where are you getting that number from? It was a mix of rent, food, medical, productivity tools, etc. Some quick math I did shows that only 6% of the money we spent on her was for travel.  Math from this doc Flights:800+190=990 Total spent on her when she was compensated with room, board, travel, and medical + stipend: 17,174 990/17174 = 6% (I didn't include the flight from the Bahamas to London because that was when she was picking her own cash salary, rather than the all expenses paid + stipend. We'd just already booked it before she'd switched to cash.  If you want to include that, it's hard, because then should we include the cash comp or not?) It's also important to emphasize that even though compensation is not the same as purely cash pay, she signed up for the compensation package that she got. When she asked to get compensated purely in cash, we said yes. So it's not like she was forced to spend money in a certain way. It's like if you signed up for a fellowship that covered room and board and a stipend. Later, you decide that you want to spend the money differently, so you talk to the person in charge and they say it's fine for you to be purely compensated with cash. There's no forcing you at any point in that process to spend your money in a particular way.  Second follow up comment: Alice did, and then when she asked she got it. Chloe never requested this.  It's really important that they signed up for this. If we had promised them $75,000 cash salary and then instead gave them this compensation package, I think that is indeed unethical and unfair. However if they knew what they were signing up for and it was clearly communicated and they said yes, then that is totally fine and an informed choice they made. I don't see an alternative. I can't read minds. I couldn't change their comp

Was medical considered part of compensation? In the appendix you describe it as Emerson "generously covering" them, and that Alice never had an agreement to have them covered.