Linch comments on Contra the Giving What We Can pledge - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: BenHoffman 11 January 2017 08:22:39PM *  0 points [-]

That's good to hear. But I didn't think you were saying that criticism is generally harmful - I thought you were saying that failing to check in with GWWC first is harmful in expectation. If so, I'm curious what the most important scenarios are in which it could cause harm to start this sort of conversation in public rather than in private. If not, when do you think this advice does help?

It additionally seemed like you thought that this advice should be applied, not just to criticism of GWWC's own conduct, but to criticism of the idea of the pledge itself - which is already public, and not entirely specific to GWWC, as organizations like The Life You Can Save and REG promote similar pledges. I got this impression because Alyssa's post is limited to discussion of the public pledge itself.

Comment author: Linch 11 January 2017 09:48:12PM *  2 points [-]

EDIT: Ben H's comment below convincingly illustrated that I misunderstood him. I apologize for contributing to any misinformation.

EDIT 2: Looking upwards of the comment chain, I think this is a very reasonable reading of Benquo's comment:

"I'm having a hard time reconciling these. In particular, it seems like if you make both these claims, you're basically saying that EAs shouldn't publicly criticize the pledge without GWWC's permission because that undercuts GWWC's goals. That seems very surprising to me. Am I misunderstanding you?"

I think my mistake is that in haste, I confused the different Bens with similar (but far from identical) opinions and formed an inaccurate model.

Original post:

Reposted from FB, I apologize if the language here is less polished than desired.

1) It's a common courtesy for journalists (and GiveWell) to message the organizations they're writing about for a response.

2) Sometimes said organizations are too busy, etc. to respond to said criticisms.

3) Ben Todd suggested that we have this norm in EA as well.

4) My interpretation of 1)+2) means you give people a chance to respond/comment to your criticism before airing it, especially if there are contexts that are missing.

5) Most others have taken 1), 2) and 3) to necessarily imply that orgs should have the right to waive criticism before they appear on air.

I believe 5) is incorrect because it is very different from the base cases I am aware of (GiveWell asks charities to comment before publishing their charity reports, journalists asking for a comment from people they write about).

Why are people taking 5) as the default interpretation here?

Comment author: BenHoffman 12 January 2017 06:58:34AM *  1 point [-]

I don't think that Ben Todd is proposing (5). I think he's proposing (4), and that this proposed norm would effectively be a tax on criticism. Taxes aren't as costly as bans, and can be good if they pay for something good enough, but in this case I don't think it's worth it.

In particular, applying journalistic standards to criticism of, but not praise of, EA orgs' behavior seems like a weird position to take if what you're interested in is improving the quality of public information.

Comment author: Linch 12 January 2017 07:42:40AM *  0 points [-]

Ah, I'm so sorry for misunderstanding you! I came here from another post which quoted Ben T's comment:


"In other words: the CEO of 80,000 Hours thinks that people should “run critical posts past the organization concerned before posting”, but also thinks that it might not be worth it for GWWC to address such criticisms because they don’t directly contribute to growth or fundraising, and addressing criticisms publicly might “make the organization look bad.”

This cashes out to saying “we don’t want to respond to your criticism, and we also would prefer you didn’t make it in public.”

It’s normal for organizations not to respond to every criticism — the Coca-Cola company doesn’t have to respond to every internet comment that says Coke is unhealthy — but Coca-Cola’s CEO doesn’t go around shushing critics either."

I think upon reflection that while my statement of 5) is too strong, it's a plausible reading even there, and one that these comments point to. ie, "shushing critics" isn't the same thing as explicit censorship, but it's not that far away.

(Also, Benquo's comment implies this more directly)

"In particular, applying journalistic standards to criticism of, but not praise of, EA orgs' behavior seems like a weird position to take if what you're interested in is improving the quality of public information."

Ah, that's a good point about my inconsistency. I will need to think about this more clearly.

Comment author: BenHoffman 12 January 2017 09:44:05AM *  0 points [-]

For what it's worth, your comment helped me clarify my position, and I wish I'd been able to express myself that clearly earlier.

Also, somewhat embarrassingly, I am also Benquo (I think I accidentally signed up once via mobile, forgot, and signed up again via desktop.) Hopefully I'll remember to just use this login going forward.