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Givewell Chronology

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Timeline

Chronology of Events:

December 30, 2007

  • On December 30, 2007, a user named Geremiah posted a question asking for help on how to find a high performing charity in Ask.Metafilter.com [1]
  • After three answers, a user named Holden0 answers and suggests the use of Givewell.net.[2]
  • Two questions later, another user named Miko makes a post questioning the approach Geremiah was taking towards selecting a charity and suggested other options for Geremiah to go about finding a charity. [3]
  • Geremiah then responds, criticizing Miko, and highlights Givewell.net as the sort of answer he wants. [4]
  • Miko then becomes suspicious that Holden0 is the same person as Givewell.net founder Holden Karnofsky. [5]

December 31, 2007

  • On December 31st, 2007, Miko creates thread in Metatalk.Metafilter.com calling out the previous Ask.Metafilter question as an attempt by Holden Karnofsky to use sock puppetry to anonymously plug Givewell.net, a violation of Metafilter rules. [6]
  • Metafilter moderator and founder, Matthowie, discovers that Geremiah's question and Holden0's answer were posted from the same IP address. He deletes the question and bans both users. [7]
  • Mathowie then discovers the same individual purchased both accounts, which cost $5 to open on Metafilter. [8]
  • Holden Karnofsky posts in thread under new account name Holden00 and admits to posting the question and then answering it. He calls it a lapse of judgment , "terrible," and that it was not the right way to spread the word about Givewell.net. Asks that people understand Givewell.net is not a scam. [9]
  • 18 minutes later, at 3:02 pm, after receiving criticism from other Metafilter users in the thread, Holden posts again apologizing, acknowledging he had done something wrong. Holden then blames some of his behavior on lack of sleep, and offers to give Metafilter.com a donation to make things right for breaking the rules. [10]
  • Six minutes later, Holden responds to claims that he had deleted comments from the Givewell.net blog, noting that nothing was deleted and pointing out the comments were back on the page. Holden calls his lapse of judgment "quick and relatively thoughtless." He apologizes again. [11]
  • At 3:11 pm, Holden posts again, admitting now that the offered donation could be perceived as a bribe (referencing previous Metafilter user posts). He also reaffirms that no comments were deleted from the Givewell.net blog. Holden then asks for advice on how to make things right and to uphold the transparency that his company purports. [12]
  • Six minutes later, under the advice of several Metafilter posts, Holden posts a mea culpa on the Givewell.net blog. In it, Holden admits to the aforementioned behavior, to sending out brief emails from accounts setup for Givewell employees, and commenting on other blogs (unnamed) without identifying himself, and specifically for "astroturfing." He blames it on lack of sleep, a hectic schedule, and the mistaken belief that it was an honest way to get Givewell.net considered on the merits. [13] He then apologizes again.
  • Holden responds again, admitting to sock puppetry and apologizing, and stating that his mistakes were made in a moment of weakness. [14]
  • Holden responds to several Metafilter posts about the intent behind his actions, stating that it was an attempt to get Givewell.net judged on its merit, and not to appear as a spammer. He acknowledges that now he sees that it was "stupid and wrong." [15]
  • At 6:45 pm, Holden posts, admitting to his practices and re-iterating that the lapse of judgment was not a momentary thing, but that he never intentionally meant to deceive others into thinking he was an objective bystander. He notes that he did not "try hard" to hide his identity and he promises never to do such again. [16]
  • At 9:30 pm, Givewell.net board member Tim Ogden posts in the MetaTalk thread. In a long post, Ogden states that Holden had contacted the Board, that the situation will be discussed by the board, and that he was aware of some of Holden and Elie's promotional events and supplied a link to a thread at the Wall Street Journal's The Wealth blog, in which he had participated and noted the presence of both Holden and Elie. He did not think there was anything amiss in their actions in this thread. He then goes on to address questions and concerns about Givewell.net in general.

January 1, 2008

  • At 3:19 and 3:27, more examples of Elie participating in the same astroturfing activities, one in "The Wealth" thread already admitted by Tim Ogden, and the other at MarginalRevolution.com charity blog (where he asks a question, then answers it later down in the thread's comments).

January 2, 2008

  • 6:14 am, January 2nd, 2008, a comment by Holden on the Givewell.blog are posted in the Metatalk thread, in which Holden informs that the board of directors will be trying to meet during this week, that the comment subscription service was temporarily being removed, and comments to the blog that were not associated with the topic would be deleted.

January 3, 2008

GiveWell Board Meeting. Givewell_Board_Meeting_Transcript (partial; Holden's statement to the board). Audio here.