Lawrence Newport

451 karmaJoined Oct 2021


Youtuber/ (former) Academic


Speaking with a legal background:

You should probably do a bit more research than a single copy+paste from a summary on a gov website. This is very, very bare bones - something I wouldn't accept from a term 1 student paper (for example). Consulting a professional is obviously preferable but even without that, actually looking at any relevant Act or legal decisions would dramatically improve this. I think it is incredibly poor to post this with such little investigation.

Also whistleblowing (as your name suggests), can be done internally in the org, raised to the org or to a superior within the org, or so forth - doing so on a public forum is not actually whistleblowing that may be protected by law. It all depends on what avenues are available (such as if you've been ignored, or fear reprisals or so forth) and what you have tried elsewhere.

Yes, I don't know what I think of that, but you're right that I implied you were thinking of something much more wide reaching.

I think its wrong to say there's no transparency or accountability  (this isn't to say we should just assume all checks now are enough, but I don't think we should conclude that none so far exist). Obviously for anything actually criminal then proper whistleblowing paths exist and should be used! At the moment, I think even checks like this discussion are far more effective than in most other communities because EA is still quite small, so it hasn't got the issues of scale that other institutions or communities may experience.

On transparency: Transparency is a part of honesty, but has costs and I don't think its at all clear in this instance that that cost was remotely required to be paid. Again, this will only cause future discussions to be slower, more guarded and less honest - the community response to this will similarly decide how much we should guard ourselves when talking with other EAs. As a side point: its also the case that this instance isn't actual "transparency" but fed lines to a journalist, then selectively quoted and given back to us.

The cost of transparency in every discussion at a high-level of leadership (for example) is that the cost of new ideas becomes prohibitively high as everyone can pick you apart, weigh in, misrepresent or re-direct discussion entirely. Compare e.g. local council meetings with the public and those without, and decisions made in committee vs those made by individual founders. Again transparency is a part of honesty but I can put my trust in you - for example - without needing you to be transparent about every conversation you have about me. If, however, the norm is that we expect total transparency of information and constant leaks - then we should expect a community of paranoia, dishonest conversation and continuous misrepresentations of one another.

I think its completely fine for invite-only slacks to exist and for them to discuss matters that they might not want leaked elsewhere. If they were plotting murders or were implicated in serious financial crime, or criminal enterprise, or other such awful unforgiveable acts, then yes I can see why we would want to send a clear signal that anything like that is beyond the pale and discretion no longer protects you. In that instance I think no one would object to breach of trust.

However, we aren't discussing that scenario. This is a breach of trust, which erodes honest discussion in private channels. The more this is acceptable in EA circles, the less honesty of opinion you will get - and the more paranoia will set in.

Acting with honesty and integrity does not mean opening up every discussion to the world, or having an expectation that chats will leak in the event that you discuss "if other people are going to make us look bad". Nevermind the difficulty that arises in then attempting to predict what else warrants leaks if that's the bar you've set.

This fundamentally misunderstands norms around whistleblowing. For instance, UK legislation on whistleblowing does not allow you to just go to journalists for any and all issues - they have to be sufficiently serious. This isn't just for "official" reasons but because it's understood that trust within institutions is necessary for a functioning society/group/community/company and norms that encourage paranoia over leaks lead to non-honest conversations filtered through fears of leaks.

Even in the event that a crime is being committed, you are expected to first go to authorities, rather than journalists - to journalists only if you believe authorities won't assist. In the SBF example I'd hope someone would have done precisely that. Moreso, to protect trust, whistleblowing is protected only for issues that warrant that level of trust breach - ie my comment is that this is disproportionate breach of trust, with long term effect on community norms.

Furthermore, whistleblowing on actual crimes is entirely different to leaking private messages about managing PR. And - again - is something one should do first to authorities - not necessarily to journalists!

Essentially you are eliding very serious whistleblowing of crimes to police or public bodies, to leaked screenshots to journalists of private chats about community responses.

What's stunning to me is the following:

There may not have been extended discussions, but there was at least one more recent warning. “E.A. leadership” is a nebulous term, but there is a small annual invitation-only gathering of senior figures, and they have conducted detailed conversations about potential public-relations liabilities in a private Slack group.

Leaking private slack conversations to journalists is a 101 on how to destroy trust. The response to SBF and FTX betrayal shouldn't be to further erode trust within the community.

EA should not have to learn every single group dynamic from first principles - the community might not survive such a thorough testing and re-learning of all social rules around discretion, trust and why its important to have private channels of communication that you can assume will not be leaked to journalists.

If the community ignores trust, networks and support for one another - then the community will not form, ideas will not be exchanged in earnest and everyone will be looking over their shoulder for who may leak or betray their confidence.

Destroying trust decimates communities - we've all found that with SBF. The response to that shouldn't be further, even more personal and deep betrayals. I will now have to update against how open I am in discussions with other EAs - which is a shame as the intellectual freedom, generosity, honesty and subtlety are what I love about this community - but it seems I will have to consider "what may a journalist think of this if this person leaked it?" as a serious concern.

The comment below that this is like Bernie Madoff is not right as far as I can see. This is a different situation, with different facts - including that we have, as yet, no idea what those facts are! Your situation will also be individual - if you took the funds as a limited company is different to if you took them individually, for example, with different effects most likely. It is also entirely unknown what is happening. Nothing has been made clear officially, no one knows what's going on and you - importantly - had nothing to do with any of that stuff that is being potentially alleged (not yet actually alleged by any authority).

I'm not giving legal advice here. I'm just stating that being calm is the right response and that googling Bernie Madoff (as suggested below), won't most likely be of any help.

Brilliant post, and much needed. Thank you.

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