Full account of GiveWell staff's inappropriate online promotion in December 2007

Below is a complete list of the inappropriate online promotion conducted by GiveWell staff members Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld in December 2007. No such promotion was conducted prior to December 2007; GiveWell has since apologized for these activities, issued reprimands and punishments for them, and taken steps to prevent similar problems in the future (see our FAQ on the subject for more information).

Online promotion involving Holden's and Elie's real names, but with inadequate disclosure of their affiliations

Holden Karnofsky posted the following comments in public online forums, without giving clear, up-front disclosure of his affiliation with GiveWell.

Elie Hassenfeld posted the following comments in public online forums, without giving clear, up-front disclosure of his affiliation with GiveWell.

  • Two comments (here and here) on the Wall Street Journal online.
  • Two comments (here and here) on Marginal Revolution.
  • Two comments (here and here) on the Buzz Builder blog.
  • Comment on Boing Boing.

Elie Hassenfeld also sent one email to a blogger that used his personal email address (rather than his @givewell.net address) and did not make his affiliation clear.

Anonymous and deceptive online promotion

Holden Karnofsky:

  • Posted a question to Ask Metafilter using the name "geremiah" and asking for help figuring out where to donate; answered the question using the name "Holden0" with a link to GiveWell.net; and posted a followup comment under the name "geremiah" praising GiveWell and designating Holden0's response as the best one. This can be seen here.
  • Posted two comments to Lifehacker under the name "geremiah"; the first asked for help finding a good charity, and the second linked to GiveWell. The first was deleted by Lifehacker; the second can be seen here.
  • Sent ten emails to bloggers recommending that they blog about GiveWell, using the tone of an unconnected party and using the name of staffer Teel Lidow.
  • Commented on Wall Street Journal online using the name "Research24" and linking to GiveWell. (Note that Holden has no record or recollection of making this comment, but recognizes the language and account as his own; this comment was pointed out by a commenter on The GiveWell Blog, after the Board had already met and addressed misbehavior in this general category.)

Elie Hassenfeld commented on MNSpeak.com using the name "Talia" and linking to GiveWell.

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