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6 Women Accuse Tech VC Justin Caldbeck of Sexual Assault and Harassment (observer.com)
467 points by philip1209 on June 23, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 430 comments



Really glad to see people like this getting called out. Dealing with sexual harassment/assault from someone in power is the last thing you want as a female founder - you have a million other things you need to do to keep your startup afloat, and you don't want to rock the boat if it affects your likelihood of being funded. Feels like the valley is slowly but surely changing.

And yes, I recognize that this hasn't been "proven", but really what's the chance than there's a shadowy cabal of women who start companies in order to target individual VCs. These women have little to gain from this and everything to lose. Occams razor is that he's at the very least doing something that's inappropriate.


The sad part to me is that this is just the part of the iceberg that is visible above the surface.

I've heard stories from several female founders/VC's (not naming names or specific details to protect anonymity) who have experienced repeated unwelcome advances even after it was made clear they had a significant other. That's not as egregious as groping (one of the accusations in this article), but that's still sexual harassment by the letter of the law and slimy as hell every other way.

Another common theme I noticed is when the man in question stays in the gray area where individual incidents aren't clearly over the line and might not qualify legally as sexual harassment, but in context and in aggregate it's clear why a woman would feel very uncomfortable. How do you confront something like that when they can just question your perception of reality?

In all but one case, the women decided against confrontation because the man was in a much more powerful position (such as a general partner of a VC fund), and the women were afraid of retribution and risking killing their careers by taking a principled stand. They all wished they could do more, but decided they didn't want to be martyrs. That's a bad position to be in.

I think it's damning of the industry that these women have accepted silence on the matter as part of the burden of being a woman and pursuing this line of work. Granted I'm looking at this with N < 10, but everyone I've talked to shares the sentiment that it's a pattern, not a coincidence.

I'm hopeful that everything going on around Uber will move the needle enough that more people are willing to come forward.


> Another common theme I noticed is when the man in question stays in the gray area where individual incidents aren't clearly over the line and might not qualify legally as sexual harassment, but in context and in aggregate it's clear why a woman would feel very uncomfortable.

This seems like a slippery slope. I can imagine malicious but careful predators who constantly test boundaries in a conscious effort to achieve a sexual goal. But I can also imagine a poor socially awkward guy who just has a severe crush, but is doing his damnedest not to say or do anything to act on it- and a woman who would be particularly sensitive to his unwanted romantic desire.

Both would be "incidents that don't cross the line but in aggregate make the woman feel uncomfortable", but the latter deserves understanding and _perhaps_ a calm discussion, but definitely not punishment.

I'm just saying, even the gray area has a spectrum- but any policies people come up with to handle this, would need to establish a threshold higher than just "a woman felt uncomfortable around a specific man", or perhaps a gentle grade of responses.


The parent post is likely talking about unwanted advances and sexual references, not "awkwardness." If having a crush on someone causes you to make uncomfortable sexual inneundos at them or suggest they should sleep with you, the the problem is your self control, not a question of grey areas.


And if it was always going to be uncomfortable sexual innuendos or propositioning for sex, then it wouldn't be a grey area.

The point here was incidents that don't cross "the line", which means the location of the line is suddenly up for debate, so you don't even know if you did something wrong.


Isn't the location of the line always up for debate, though? Since people created the line and give it power, it moves with our consciousness and will. The line today is not where it was in 1890. As women gain a stronger voice, we should expect the line to move. Assuming that men actually care about their input, they'd cooperate in shifting the line to an acceptable standard for both parties.

If the line is up for debate, you would know if you did something wrong - unless you're not following the debate. If you're not following the debate, you really don't have anyone to blame but yourself.


Of course, "the debate" is an abstraction and it's actually a million different debates in a million different places.


How is it a slippery slope? Towards what? Will women eventually begin to feel uncomfortable about situations that are clearly not sexual?

Women are already reluctant to come forward when subjected to overt sexual harassment, let alone "gray area" harassment. I don't think anyone has to fear any kind of slippery slope here.


> How is it a slippery slope?

It is describing a continued change of standards over time, with no clearly defined end-goal other than "nobody ever feels uncomfortable".

> Towards what?

Towards a point where a woman can punish a man for being socially awkward because he has a crush.

> Will women eventually begin to feel uncomfortable about situations that are clearly not sexual?

"Clearly" is a useless word here. And sexual? What about romantic? What about platonic, but more than is welcome?

They already do feel uncomfortable as a result of unwanted attention. I've seen it happen. The person I was replying to was suggesting a world where that is actionable.

> Women are already reluctant to come forward when subjected to overt sexual harassment, let alone "gray area" harassment.

Some are reluctant, which is regrettable and we should support them. Some are not reluctant. And some are eager, in hope of a payday. All of those exist.

> I don't think anyone has to fear any kind of slippery slope here.

When a person is discussing a world where even the nebulously defined gray area is legally actionable, and the only standard is "a woman felt uncomfortable" - yes.

It seems like you're replying viscerally to the idea that sexual harassment is not real, or should not be punished? I never suggested such a thing. I just think that if we're going to try and un-blur the gray area, then we need objectively defined standards.


> repeated unwelcome advances even after it was made clear they had a significant other

Repeated unwelcome advances are not OK even if the person is single.


> Repeated unwelcome advances are not OK even if the person is single.

Definitely agree with you there. I added the extra "made clear they had a significant other" since it would help to push the line even further into unacceptable territory. I don't mean to imply that the relationship status is a necessary condition for unacceptability. The fact that women have learned to use the existence of an SO as an escape rather than outright saying no reflects poorly on the men that caused the learned behavior.


I am the very close relative of two women in tech. One of my relatives was on the receiving end of repeated, unwanted advances over the last several months, none of which were reported to HR because she didn't want to destroy her career at the company.

Last weekend she received an unsolicited, nearly naked photo from the same male co-worker. Needless to say, he is no longer at the company.

This is sad on two counts. First, it's sad that my relative felt she couldn't report because she thought it would harm her career. It sickens me to say this, but maybe she was right. Maybe it would have harmed her career.

Second, and I've seen this before, she had to endure further harassment until he really escalated so she could report something significant enough that she felt it wouldn't harm her credibility.

Though we're discussing this through the lens of the tech industry, the most horrifying thing of all is that this isn't even a problem that's unique to tech.

It's pervasive. Still.


Does sending dick-pics or beefcake shots actually work? Especially if you keep getting rejection?

What prompts this kind of mentality?


It was just the other day that that I read in the local news about a woman that was arrested for sending breast pictures to an ex, sending death threats to his new girlfriend, and stalking him from his home to work.

Stalking seems to be some form of obsessive behavior, and I suspect that sending pictures is an early stage of such behavior. It also describe a cure for it, ie similar cures we have when obsessive behavior makes someone a criminal.


> What prompts this kind of mentality?

Maladjusted chuds being maladjusted.


[flagged]


So you're saying idiots can't sexually harass people. Is that your excuse?


I think he's trying to distinguish between someone with poor ability to pick up on social cues (from someone with poor ability to communicate their wishes/feelings) and a sexual predator. That seems like a reasonable distinction to make, though both can have the same moral fault and/or commit the same crime; motivation is important when we look towards someone's character.


You've got to take responsibility for your actions and not make your problem other peoples' problem. If I'm nearsighted, it's irresponsible for me to drive without my glasses. Likewise, if you're bad at pickup up social cues, you probably should not be hitting on coworkers.


This is not the first time I've heard somebody try to fly the lame excuse that they're not guilty of doing something they actually did, because they were too stupid to know it was illegal.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/republicans-emergin...


> the lame excuse that they're not guilty

That's not what they said at all.

> > That seems like a reasonable distinction to make, though both can have the same moral fault and/or commit the same crime; motivation is important when we look towards someone's character.

Stop rounding people to stereotypes.


Yes it is what they said, actually:

"And I'm not saying X, but X." where "X" = "it's her fault".

Just because you deny what you're about to say in the same sentence just before you say it, doesn't mean you didn't say it.

So what is your motivation for defending someone who's trying to shift the blame to the victim of sexual harassment, and how does that speak to your character?


You're mis-framing my position in a highly offensive way.

Ignorance of the law is not a defence against it. That's right and proper.

If I believe you are happy with me taking money from your wallet, and so take some. Can you see that would be a different category morally to if I believed you would condemn such action and yet still took the money. Both situations might be theft, both might be judged morally wrong. But to me the moral character of the person in the two situations is different. And, that differences is worthy of note.


You're mis-framing the right of a stupid man to send unsolicited naked pictures of himself to a non-consenting woman without getting fired in a highly offensive way. You're wrong that stupidity is a justifiable excuse for that behavior.

"her silence [...] causing him to escalate to naked pictures"

Don't blame the victim's silence for "causing" an "escalation" to sending naked pictures. He decided to do it of his own free will, she did not "cause" him to do that by being silent.


The motivation of the above poster is accuracy.

based upon your post I can understand why you find it difficult identifying such a thing, but there it is.

You're so blinded by your beliefs you've lost all sense of fairness and balance and mistake moderates as the being of the opposing faction.


We've banned this account for repeatedly violating the HN guidelines. Please don't create accounts to do this with.


I think this is a pretty important point. The default option for declining a proposition shouldn't have to be "I already have a partner". A simple 'no, thankyou' should suffice.


I think they are using a euphemism for essentially saying "no" to sex/relations.


Yup, this one. It's a common tactic to bring up the significant other when it seems like the conversation might be going in a non-platonic direction and you want to head it off. It's a way to avoid taking on the personal risk related to giving an outright rejection.


It's a way to avoid taking on the personal risk related to giving an outright rejection.

Yes, and even if the person being rejected poses no risk it's nice to spare their feelings with what amounts to a little white lie. It helps everybody save face and ideally allows the conversation to move on to other things.


> Another common theme I noticed is when the man in question stays in the gray area where individual incidents aren't clearly over the line and might not qualify legally as sexual harassment, but in context and in aggregate it's clear why a woman would feel very uncomfortable. How do you confront something like that when they can just question your perception of reality?

This is where professionalism and propriety come in. One's behavior should simply be well outside the gray area and straying into it should, itself, be grounds for confrontation.


> This is where professionalism and propriety come in. One's behavior should simply be well outside the gray area and straying into it should, itself, be grounds for confrontation.

That doesn't actually fix anything, you're just defining the gray area to be further to one side. If people actually did that then expectations would change and more innocuous behavior would fall into the gray area, requiring you to move the line again.

The gray area exists because not everybody agrees where the line is.

In some cultures it is illegal for a man and a woman who are not married to even be alone in a room together. In some cultures physical contact between acquaintances is normal behavior. In a multicultural society, whose culture should have the force of law?


I don't mean that we should change the laws, so that the former grey area becomes the new illegal area; but rather that we should have a stricter attitude about the grey area. Sometimes people's attitude about these things is that, they acknowledge they are wrong, but since nothing illegal happened, they won't say or do anything. That's the grey area I'm talking about -- where there is broad acknowledgement that something is fishy, although it is not technically illegal.

This gray area exists because the law needs to operate under the presumption of innocence, defining crimes unambiguously and prosecuting them with due regard for reasonable doubt -- it is deliberately narrow and permissive, because the state is very powerful and if not held to strict limits it becomes very dangerous. However, those of us who wish to have a good social and professional reputation shouldn't expect to maintain it while doing things that are "barely legal"; and those who witness us doing so should not feel that those kinds of things are not to be mentioned or corrected merely because they are not illegal.


> This gray area exists because the law needs to operate under the presumption of innocence, defining crimes unambiguously and prosecuting them with due regard for reasonable doubt -- it is deliberately narrow and permissive, because the state is very powerful and if not held to strict limits it becomes very dangerous.

That is the theory everyone refers to when they're trying to justify imposing harsh penalties.

Have you read the laws that Congress actually passes? It would be nice if they actually lived up to that standard.

And you can't get out of the problem by appealing to a reputational shadow enforcement system. If reputational harm wasn't real or powerful then no one would be interested in imposing it. Imposing real penalties with a weak standard of proof on marginal behavior is equally problematic regardless of whether the penalties are formally imposed by the state. And today's attitudes become tomorrow's laws.

Gray areas are gray because they contain both baby and bathwater.

If something is clearly wrong it's easy to make it illegal (and it almost always already is), and if it isn't clearly wrong then we don't have any special knowledge the state lacks that allows us to mete out penalties in borderline cases without punishing good people.


> Gray areas are gray because they contain both and bathwater.

There is a grey area like that but that is not the grey area I am talking about.

To a consider an example you mentioned previously: it's fine to just not ever touch your coworkers. Another example is ethnic jokes: these are not illegal but do you need to do this at work? Staying out of the gray area is not a matter of harsh punishment but rather on insisting on professionalism and decorum.

It is only when people have strayed so far from that -- normalising deviance for themselves -- that you find yourself in a place where harsh punishment is even thinkable. One would not need or apply harsh punishments for matters of decorum.


There is value in camaraderie.

You're assuming the benefit of staying away from the line is greater than the cost of losing every net-positive thing that isn't entirely white.

It's possible for a workplace to be a sterile environment where one turns one's wrench in silence without human connection, but that isn't how people should have to spend the majority of their waking hours.

And again, that policy is a ratchet. What people take offense to is calibrated by expectations and past experience. If you succeed in exerting social pressure to keep everyone away from the line, you move the Overton window and create a new gray area in what used to be accepted professional behavior. Continue to apply the same line-avoiding policy and you have a ratchet that leads to the imposition of radically Puritanical positions.


If there is no countervailing pressure, you have a ratchet; but many norms are held to quite consistently and stably.

For example, tipping -- I honestly can not remember the last time I saw anyone not do it. That doesn't mean tips keep going up and up and up...

How do you explain that?


http://time.com/money/3394185/tipping-myths-realities-histor...

> Nonetheless, the standard percentage to tip waitstaff has risen over the decades. According to a PayScale study, the median tip is now 19.5%. In recent years, some waiters and restaurants have suggested that 25% or even 30% is the proper gratuity level, and that a 20% tip, once considered generous, is just average today. As recently as 2008, though, an Esquire tipping guide stated "15 percent for good service is still the norm" at American restaurants. An American Demographics study from 2001 found that three-quarters of Americans tipped an average of 17% on restaurant bills, while 22% tipped a flat amount no matter what the bill, and the gratuity left averaged $4.67. Meanwhile, in 1922, Emily Post wrote, "You will not get good service unless you tip generously," and "the rule is ten per cent."

Presumably as a result of most people not wanting to leave a below average tip, which clips the low side of average from the distribution and thereby raises the average over time.


Ah. So here we could have a change of laws, I guess, to put a stop to the ratchet?


> I've heard stories from several female founders/VC's (not naming names or specific details to protect anonymity) who have experienced repeated unwelcome advances even after it was made clear they had a significant other.

Why should that even be a factor? Unwanted is unwanted, whether they're in a committed relationship or not is not relevant at all.


"I have a partner" is just one way to tell someone their attention is unwanted.

Parent post included that because these threads are full of arseholes who say things like "he didn't know, why didn't she just tell him?"


I've heard about both Men and Women VCs & CEOs making sexual advances using their position of power to those lower on the totem.

It's very common.


> I've heard stories from several female founders/VC's (not naming names or specific details to protect anonymity) who have experienced repeated unwelcome advances even after it was made clear they had a significant other. That's not as egregious as groping (one of the accusations in this article), but that's still sexual harassment by the letter of the law and slimy as hell every other way.

While I don't know the details of what happened here, there's nothing wrong or illegal about approaching someone and I'm more than a little miffed that anyone would consider it necessary (or good) to make "unwelcome advances" illegal. Yes, even unwelcome advances to married women.


VCs have a position of power when dealing with entrepreneurs. It is never okay to flirt or proposition someone whom you have temporary or prolonged power over. This is well accepted in modern society.

Bosses, professors, doctors, interviewers and every other situation I can think of have a bright line where it's not okay to try and romantically or sexually engage someone when you're in a context that you have power over them, even if it is ephemeral. VCs are no different.

I'm not even going to try and address groping or other forms of harassment, which are wrong even when a power dynamic doesn't exist.


I think the key word is "repeated." Approaching someone is allowed. Repeatedly approaching them after they tell you know is not.


that's still not sexual harassment, there are plenty of stories of men chasing women and eventually marrying them.

human sexuality isn't that cut and dried.


I think you're talking about something different to the main thread here. Most people here are talking about a professional context where there is a significant power imbalance between the parties.

Context is important.


I was specifically responding to the claim that 'unwanted advances' could be considered sexual harassment under the law.

yes, technically you could consider rape to be an 'unwanted advance', but no reasonable person would ever characterize it as so. The very fact that it's characterized as an unwanted advance tells you it's not sexual harassment, it's just someone chasing another person.


> The very fact that it's characterized as an unwanted advance

http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rig...

> Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Very generally, “sexual harassment” describes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Federal law appears to disagree with you.


no it doesn't.


Not taking no for an answer is sexual harassment, if it makes the person on the receiving end uncomfortable.


I'm very happy my fiancée didn't take ’no’ to be my definitive answer. You really can't reduce these things to binary operations.


Unfortunately the majority of these individuals haven't actualized that things in life aren't completely binary and attempt to apply a binary algorithm to solve non-binary problems.


According to the accounts I have read (that have not been upheld in a court of law "beyond all reasonable doubt" or whatever the standard for these things is), this man was definitely in the wrong and had to be stopped. I applaud those women who selflessly put their names out there to stop him.

However, it seems to me, as a non-American, that the US is pretty hysterical on this topic. Humans make each other uncomfortable sometimes, some situations are inherently awkward, emotional anguish is inflicted on good people (I've had to fire a few... that's horrible on both sides of the desk)... there's no reason society should be ascribed the duty to guarantee that nobody ever finds themselves in situations they are not comfortable in.

As I mentioned, my partner pushed my boundaries a bit, but I'm doubleplusgood happy she did. In hindsight, my initial reticence was an error, and by persisting she allowed me the opportunity to correct that. Now our lives are significantly enhanced as a result. I don't see why such behaviour should be subject to censure. Did it make me uneasy? In a transitory way, yes. But it's part and parcel of existing in a social fabric.


[flagged]


Put your name on your accusations. They did.


[flagged]


> but the things being labeled as rape right now are outlandish

Do you have any examples? (I'd prefer some with links, please).



[flagged]


> Women who don't say "no" for the first time are widely considered low-moral

There is no "low morality" in a woman accepting an invitation to go on a date even in the most hidebound parts of the United States. But that's not what you mean. You don't mean "interact". You mean "screw". That you're conflating the idea of "regular, not very confident or skilled people" interacting with women with its very small subset, screwing, is telling as to your worldview and how you regard the women under discussion.

You should stop digging.


Of course it's no low morality in accepting a date. But I thought we discuss this in context of loose sexual behavior (implied by the article events), not of going on dates or making relationships. As of interact vs screw, it is the matter of accent, not of an objective view. Please don't take my words out of context, nor make a personal diagnosis. Proving [not your] point by attacking the person under his uncertain inferences is not a great way to deliver an argument anyway.

How do you have brief experiences, btw?


> that's still sexual harassment by the letter of the law and slimy as hell every other way.

IANAL, but legally it's not sexual harassment because they don't work at the same company.

Something is only sexual harassment in two cases: 1) a supervisor offers something to a subordinate in exchange for sexual favors 2) a company is found to have created a hostile work environment. In both cases it's the company that's liable, not the person or people doing the harassment. There may be some extra rules that exist in individual states, but this is the general idea.

Certainly it's bad behavior, but because there isn't any real power imbalance between entrepreneurs and VCs the problem can mostly be dealt with socially (as has happened here) rather than being a situation that requires some specific legal intervention. (Or at least that's the general legal theory.)


What? Anyone can be sexually harassed by anyone else, workplace has nothing to do with it. Sexual harassment in the workplace is egregious because the conflict of interests. E.g. my boss harasses me, but if I complain I jeopardize my livelihood.


Alex3917 is right that sexual harassment outside the workplace is not illegal, but it's incorrect to say it's not "legally sexual harassment." It is sexual harassment, it's just not illegal sexual harassment.

For example, catcalling on the street isn't illegal. It's still sexual harassment, it's still unethical, but it's not illegal.


>>For example, catcalling on the street isn't illegal

Apparently in some instances and places it is. Follow the link.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/10/29/catca...


That's fair. In many developed countries sexual harassment laws extend to any situation where there is a power imbalance such as in education or in housing (landlord vs. tenant).


workplace has nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately this isn't true, from a legal point of view; in many jurisdictions, the legal definition of SH is specifically tailored (and constrained) to "the workplace".

Mind you I'm not talking about what's "slimy", "invasive", or what infringes on one's natural rights as a human being or anything about that. But rather, the legal definition. Which doesn't always jibe with what people would or like it to be.


Where?


Lots of state and city jurisdictions in the U.S., for example.


> because there isn't any real power imbalance between entrepreneurs and VCs

?? Sorry?

There is a huge power imbalance between entrepreneurs and VCs.


Did you mean to say there's not a power imbalance between VCs and entrepreneurs? Because you clearly don't understand the situation if you believe that's true.


I think he meant it in the context required by law. Power imbalance shows itself in every human (maybe animal?) interaction, whether money is involved or not.


You are right that it's not illegal because it's not within the scope of a company.

What I meant is that the EEOC decided to draw a line, and aside from the "in the context of a company" requirement, the behavior in the stories I've heard definitely crosses that line rather than just being an uncomfortable and sketchy situation.

I would argue however, that because VC's are holding the money and entrepreneurs are trying to raise, it might not be as bad as a boss/employee power dynamic, but the power is certainly held by the VC in the situation.


> I would argue however, that because VC's are holding the money and entrepreneurs are trying to raise, it might not be as bad as a boss/employee power dynamic, but the power is certainly held by the VC in the situation.

- The vast majority of highly successful companies don't raise venture. VCs need equity, entrepreneurs don't need money.

- The vast majority of companies that raise VC don't succeed.

- The vast majority of VC funds have lower than market returns.

I think the real situation is more that a lot of inexperienced founders glom onto VCs because they think that not having money is what's keeping them from succeeding.

There is also a common belief that the fact that VCs are predominantly male is creating a power imbalance that's keeping women from being more successful, despite the fact that the empirical evidence from other industries seemingly shows that there isn't much correlation between the sex of the gatekeepers and who they choose to back. E.g. LP is pretty gender balanced and most VCs are male, most literary agents and publishers are female but most published authors are male, etc. If there were more female VCs then it's possible that more women would get funded, but I think right now that theory is more of a truthclaim than anything else.


One person has $100 million that they'd like to turn into $1 billion. Another person has a plan that is likely to fail, but it's new territory with great potential. If no deal happens, one person still has $100 million while the other still has their unexecuted plan and hopefully a job or something.

The power imbalance is pretty obvious in that kind of scenario. It's less of an imbalance if the entrepreneur is also wealthy and just raising money to share risk or build alliances.

Point is, if you have multiple millions of dollars, "do nothing" is always on the table, which isn't so for many founders.


> If no deal happens, one person still has $100 million while the other still has their unexecuted plan and hopefully a job or something. The power imbalance is pretty obvious in that kind of scenario.

I don't see any power imbalance that exists within the relationship here. Compare this with the laws that prevent a therapist from dating a client, which are in place because one party can take advantage of the other or blackmail them or have them involuntarily committed. That's a power imbalance.

I also think this is a very orientalist view of the industry. How many founders actually raise institutional money off just a deck each year, who don't otherwise have the skills to earn a lot of money consulting or whatever?

I'm not trying to defend the behavior here in any way, I just think that the reason why it's wrong for a VC to aggressively proposition a founder or whatever is different than, for example, what makes it wrong for an employer to have a relationship with an employee.


Sadly though this probably means that you can't date anyone who you are working with in some capacity.


Why not? Inquire politely, once, and if you're declined, don't be a jerk about it. It's not that hard.


Having first hand experience with this scenario several times, spot on.


> And yes, I recognize that this hasn't been "proven", but really what's the chance [...] Occams razor is that he's at the very least doing something that's inappropriate.

Occam's razor is a tool to winnow down proven scientific theories, not to bypass the need for evidence. I'd rather vest power in the courts than outrage media.


Occam's razor is not in any way either now or historically restricted to scientific theories - proven or otherwise.


Although I agree with you that if it's definitely like the presumed victims say I just want to remember that often people are called out for base motives. Since I live in germany I remember the case of Kachelmann, who due to false claims of rape lost everything from his job to his freedom of a half years worth and much of his friends and family - because of a lie.

So for me this means that I wait for the judges to decide. Before he's found guilty it's nothing more than gossip to me, although this is a rather unpopular opinion I guess.


He essentially confirmed the accusations and took an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital yesterday (https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/23/vc-justin-caldbeck-is-taki...)


Thanks for the clarification in this case :)

Since he at least didn't deny the accusations this fosters the believes in his guilt.

For this case it's fine then. However, I tried to make a more general statement in my post before, since the zeitgeist tends to prejudgements nowadays, which also was a thing in the middle ages and does more harm than good.


> I recognize that this hasn't been "proven", but really what's the chance than there's a shadowy cabal of women who start companies in order to target individual VCs. These women have little to gain from this and everything to lose. Occams razor is that he's at the very least doing something that's inappropriate.

Seriously? I mean then why do we need courts, judges and juries if it's that simple. Details matter and both sides of the story. [1]

And what do you mean by 'at the very least doing something that's inappropriate'?. By what and by whose standards?

[1] What if you were charged with the crime of assault (non sexual in this example) and nobody had seen what had happened prior to you throwing (what they thought) was the first punch without any knowledge of the provocation prior to that point (as only one quick example).


Really glad to see people like this getting called out.

This story was posted yesterday and it got flagged. (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14613890) When I saw that, I thought the Hacker News community did not care.

I am glad to see supportive comments like yours in this new thread.


I was under the impression that the previous discussion got flagged because it was behind a paywall.

Don't despair, I think we do care. :)


The accusations can be true, and at the same time it seems possible that the VC didn't take advantage of his "position of power", but genuinely believed the women liked him for his looks and personality, not because they needed his money.


What makes you think that the women liked him, or that he thought they liked him? They were pitching to him, that's a business transaction. He himself said he leveraged a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, and the linked article mentions groping and harassment with unwanted sexual propositions.

Now the question is, what motivates you to seek out a relatively far-fetched justification for this man's possible innocence?


Perhaps they see a trend of knee-jerk reactions to these kinds of cases where the defendant is presumed guilty before the entire story or evidence is out, or before any sort of due process occurs. I can see why someone would at least try, even weakly, to counteract this type of community pressure.

I realize this isn't a legal matter at this point but I'm speaking of the principle(s) on which those features are based.

It almost always seems to become a case of "you're either with us or you're against us," so let's try to steer clear of that.


The "defendant" has already admitted to the accusations and stepped down.


In this case, I agree in the sense it defeats the point I made above, but for various reasons others may continue to push back on that pressure on principal rather than on the facts of the matter.


> Now the question is, what motivates you to seek out a relatively far-fetched justification for this man's possible innocence?

You're implying he supports sexual harassment.

He's bringing up a perfectly valid question for discussion: what if the person has an outsized opinion of his attractiveness, and also happens to be a VC -- is that still sexual harassment or just stupidity?

Well, the answer is that in this case it's still harassment.

And so now there's question, answer, discussion, etc. No need to accuse the poster of being complicit himself in harassment.


[flagged]


Whether you mean to or not you're trolling this thread hard. Please stop now.


Just out of curiosity, what about his comment is trolling other than it being a contrarian opinion in this forum?


That's a legit question (especially out of curiosity) but one that takes a surprising amount of energy to answer precisely. I might be able to do that tomorrow, but in the meantime here are some answers in the same vein. It's all the same principle, but the details vary.

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20troll%20effects&sort...

Edit: I wrote some more downthread at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14627388, if anyone wants more to read about how we approach this.


I haven't read this thread yet but I'm curious why the downvote mechanism isn't sufficient moderation in a case like this.

HN has been a superb place for discussion of issues relating to workplace harassment and it seems that having certain ideas forbidden is likely to harm the discussion.


It's because comments can have troll effects even when they're downvoted or flagged.

There's a difference between expressing a view and setting this place on fire. There's no view that can't be expressed substantively and thoughtfully if one has a mind to, but it takes work. Throwing fuel on the fire or sand in the gears is different; that's vandalism, and it destroys the free exchange of views by ruining the container—the community and site—that supports it. The container is fragile and needs protecting.

People mostly do this without realizing how destructive it is. Dealing with it requires moderators whose role is to protect the commons. That's how HN still exists as a place for (hopefully) thoughtful discussion. We'll never all agree about where to draw the line every time, but that's secondary to the point that someone needs to.

A comment crosses into trolling when it does things that are known to ruin thoughtful discussion, whether intentionally or not. I chided the commenter upthread because they were going much further than merely (say) arguing against a rush to judgment about the OP—they were signalling bad faith with polemical swipes (e.g. 'Your prejudice that in general, "men are pigs"'). That is not thoughtful discussion, it's destructive of it.

When we ask commenters not to do this, reactions vary. Some react by taking responsibility and learning how not to produce such effects in online conversation. Many HN users have gone through that process. I had to go through it myself (it took years); I used to optimize for snark and venting as much as the next person. If HN has anything superb about it, to use your word, it's because of the community members who do this work.

Other commenters prefer the melodrama approach. They proclaim they're being 'censored' for their 'unpopular opinions' by mods who 'can't handle the truth', then storm out the front door with an 'enjoy your circlejerk' or two. (Typically they then walk around the building, come back in through the back door and start over with a new account.) This is the Pythonesque 'help help I'm being repressed' phase of the internet cycle of life. It's eternal and will never go way, but I'm confident that in most cases, most neutral readers observe the same signs of bad faith that mods were reacting to in the first place. How do I know that? Because otherwise our job would be impossible.

In the end the root distinction isn't about what view a commenter has on this or that topic, it's the difference between users who comment with care for the whole and those who don't. Sometimes that's because they're so agitated that they lack the self-control to do anything other than toss a hot potato into the thread. (It happens to everyone.) But often it's just that they haven't yet learned about this dynamic and why it matters. Once somebody gets that, they're motivated to participate in the community quite differently—but it isn't a question of changing their views, becoming more 'conformist' or 'groupthink' or any of that sort of thing people say. It's more akin to not littering in a city park, or to taking good care of a campsite.


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think that depending on which stories on HN one choose to read, the community may feel entirely different. I think I'm lucky that for the most part the stories I read attract high quality comments.

The two topics I enjoy which are continually controversial are the "Russian Hacking" story and stories about Wikileaks. Wikileaks has been an interest for many HN readers for years, and so it's interesting to see how recent events have created political polarization where none existed before.

I've noticed that some users will use the tactic of shaming to try to make a point in a discussion. It's hard to describe this, but it's much more like the sort of comments one finds in other discussion fora than what is typically found on HN. Politics brings these out, yet I would be very disappointed if political topics were discouraged on HN, since political ideas and participation are an important part of citizenship and community. And it may take the sort of retort one would get on HN to break someone out of a lazy "comfort zone" belief that they hold simply because it's popular.

Thanks for your efforts moderating, I know it is a thankless duty, but your comment makes me realize that there are likely threads that I don't participate in which get much worse.


That makes sense and I appreciate the thoughtful response. The one thing I'd say is that it seems like those types of comments tend to be accepted as long as they align with popular opinion around here. Snark and polemical swipes (I had to Google "polemical" :D) seem to be fairly common. It's understandable - it's difficult to see bad faith when the message is agreeable. It'd be pretty easy to pick out comments in this discussion that align with popular opinion, have a similar tone to anothercomment's, but are unmoderated. Being more lenient on "agreeable trolling" has just as much of a destructive effect and reinforces echo chambers.


People have differing perceptions of 'popular opinion' and read the same comments wildly differently depending on their own pre-existing opinions. Even perfectly even-handed moderation (an unachievable ideal) would routinely be accused of bias because most such perceptions are in the eye of the beholder.

The price of admission into a serious conversation about this, to my mind, is some indication of awareness of how prevalent these biases are, including in one's own case. To a first approximation, they determine everything. That is, to a first approximation, the only thing that any of us really thinks is "what I like is good, what I dislike is bad, and others are good or bad to the extent that they agree with me". That goes along with "I'm a noble freethinker nobly standing apart from this groupthink echo chamber" and the associated recommendation, "You should moderate this forum to defend those I agree with and smite those I disagree with." These feelings are so compelling that it's hard to wriggle one's way into a degree of freedom from them. One should make that effort anyhow. My experience is that people who make the effort start to see the problem differently, even as we all retain our biases.

There are many counterintuitive aspects to this. One is that community cohesion remains an issue even when 'popular opinion' (assuming it exists and you know what it is) is wrong. There are ways of disputing popular opinion that cause harm even when they're right; it isn't a simple matter of just 'stating the unpopular truth' (assuming it exists and you know what it is) and then lording it over or angrily lashing out at those who 'can't handle it'. You actually have a greater responsibility by virtue of the fact that you know, or believe you know, more truth. Most people who fancy themselves to be expressing an unpopular truth don't take that responsibility—on the contrary, they use that truth as a weapon, to vent grievances, gain status, and so on. This harms discussion and community even if you are right about both popular opinion and the truth. Indeed, it does more harm the more right you are.


Underrated comment.


The commenter probably meant to say "enjoy your circle-jerking effect" ... :) Because it's the effect that they care about ... notice how silly that sounds, while not really effectively communicating, instead just getting your hairs up a little (maybe).

For the record, I don't agree with that commenter's opinion. And I also believe your actions on these moderation issues are well-intended (plus you're doing a great job, probably especially on the invisible parts, kudos).

But for all the talk about not throwing oil on the fire, maybe it's smart if you then also refrain from calling people "trolls" or "trolling" when they're not intentionally doing so. To use your words, it signals bad faith. Especially if you consider that such a person is probably in a bad or angry mood[0].

In fact, I don't think "trolling effect" is a very good term to use either. That's probably because I carry a sort of romantic idea about my dealings advanced and skilled trolls. Similar to how many people here feel about the term "hacker". Yes there exist criminal hackers, just like there exist mentally insane unstable bad evil trolls. But there are also performance artists[1], or you know, memetic/social hackers. Still not always good, and almost never welcome. They can use their eristic skills to make stuck up people lose face and/or their shit. They can bring to light collective hypocrisy by placing a very careful wedge in a community. Same reasons we need comedy, satire or jesters. Or just cause a scene for the art of it. If they wanted to, they could "set this place on fire" without snark, polemic or even knowing it was them that caused someone else to push a button and whoooommff.

Just like you don't call someone who steals your USB-stick a "hacker" but a "thief", someone who uses polemic swipes and snark because they angrily voice an unpopular opinion on HN, is not (necessarily) a troll. And to them it comes across as if you're just calling them names, which does not create listeners.

Just call it what it is. The "trolling effects" you talk about have a proper word actually, and are called "flame wars". Even better would be if you'd take some of the well-worded snippets from your post above (and possibly previous ones), for copy-pasting the relevant bits, because well it's not really more than about five typical situations on HN, is it?

Since you want to affect this person's behaviour, it helps to be specific, instead of using a catch-all term like "trolling". Pointing out "snark" and "polemic swipes" apply in this case, because that's undeniable and you can quote the words. Calling it "signalling bad faith" is a very bad idea for hopefully obvious reasons[2].

Finally, about your last paragraph. Of course you don't want conformist groupthink either. But just like the so-called "troll", your intentions may not line up with what effects you're causing. Depending on how carefully you tread, you may in fact be inciting groupthink, and ironically this attracts (proper) trolls because they love poking that kind of self-assuredness.

[0] often unrelated stress, but triggered on subjects they feel strongly about--I get this myself as well, but I usually manage to write such words in a textfile, that I keep in a very private very angry folder somewhere (throwing away the vitriol is less cathartic to me, and sometimes there's some useful eloquent bits that come in useful at a calmer moment).

[1] still not welcome here on HN, which I understand, but more for the same reasons why reddit-style pun-threads are not welcome here either.

[2] Because (especially in their eyes) they could say the same about you. Also snark and polemic swipes seem to be called out a lot more consistently when it involves "unpopular opinions on HN" (which exist), I notice this myself, even though I strongly oppose most of these unpopular opinions. And that, by itself, can in fact be considered quite rightly as signalling bad faith. So take care.


You seem very passionate about defending alleged harassers. I just wonder what fuels that. Perhaps you think these events are not that bad, or some degree of inappropriate behaviour is ok?


It seems to me that accusations of harassment can be as damaging as harassment itself, and that the presumption of innocence applies to both (or all) parties.


This comment is a microcosm of 'ddoolin's point. Step back and read it a few times, and think about what you're saying: you've presented an alternative view from my own, so sexual harassment must be acceptable to you.


I agree my reply was not helpful, but there was a point I was trying to make:

Sometimes people who are keen to defend harassers might do so because they exhibit similar behaviours themselves or hold similar beliefs and want to defend themselves.

Here is an example from this very story: Caldbeck tweeted in support of Uber: "Also mob mentality w @Uber right now. Guilty before proven innocent on everything".

I genuinely think it's worth self-examining one's motivations if someone's first instinct is to defend the man in such a case. I say this without trying to accuse anyone, sexism is subtle and affects everyone, and it's through self examination that we can grow and improve.


> I genuinely think it's worth self-examining one's motivations if someone's first instinct is to defend the man in such a case.

Why do you assume it was his (or her?) first instinct? This HN thread has already well-established that Caldbeck's behavior is repugnant. Do we need every single poster to +1, or can people propose questions for discussion without being accused of being part of the problem?


I'm aware of the point you were trying to make; it was what spawned my comment, because it is wrong. Adding words to it makes me agree less, not more. You're basically saying anybody who lobbies for not persecuting someone based on allegations must be sympathetic to the allegations, in every case, and you cite going through Twitter as if you're compiling oppo to make your point. If you don't see the danger in that line of thought, or how it makes you complicit in mob-style behavior when the incentives line up, I'm not sure how best to show you.

Ad hominem being acceptable on a few pet issues is a value system I've noticed that many people, including you, have. I would ask why. I've had this turned on me, too, hence why I'm not surprised; I'm reminded of defense lawyers who receive death threats and actual violence, as well.


[flagged]


"Everything" hasn't become sexual harassment. I've dated coworkers. I have been rebuffed by coworkers. I have even been under the impression that a coworker might be into me who was not. And--somehow--I have not been accused of sexual harassment. Maybe because I am respectful in my approach, cut it out if it's not appreciated, and never persist past being rebuffed.

The "misunderstandings" about which you wring your hands are weaponized against women in the spirit of "don't be hysterical". You're not being moderate when you express viewpoints like this. You're just rationalizing bad shit. And, judging from your sterling work throughout this thread, you know it, too.


>> The accusations can be true, and at the same time it seems possible that the VC didn't take advantage of his "position of power", but genuinely believed the women liked him for his looks and personality, not because they needed his money.

This type of behavior is about boundaries. Boundaries are about power.

His behavior crossed what our culture generally says are the boundaries of a professional situation. That's what makes it inappropriate; it doesn't matter what he believed.

It's totally acceptable to meet someone in a social situation and, after a bit of due diligence, it's totally acceptable to ask them out.

But that's not what this was.


People date in the workplace all the time, so I don't think your rules about "professional situations" are generally accepted.

I also reject the notion of "position of power" just because he is a VC. Nobody is forced to take his money. You could just as well say the applying women are in a position of power because the VC desperately needs somebody to invest in. I guess a startup should avoid seeking investments where the investor is "in a position of power", anyway.

I am also not justifying his behavior, obviously he made mistakes. But I reject the immediate interpretation of "man abusing his power to pressure women into sex".

The "boundaries" talk is also not really helpful - at some point, somebody has to make a move. If their estimate of the situation is correct, they are not "crossing boundaries". Otherwise they are crossing boundaries and need to withdraw.

Grabbing a knee under the table is of course not a good first move, but we might be missing context.


> I also reject the notion of "position of power" just because he is a VC. Nobody is forced to take his money.

Nobody's forced to work for a boss that harasses them, yet making unwanted sexual advances against someone who reports to you is illegal as hell.

You have a poor legal understanding of sexual harassment. I strongly suggest that you educate yourself as to what kind of advances and relationships are, and are not appropriate in a professional setting.


First, a pitch meeting with a venture capitalist is generally accepted by our culture to be the kind of professional environment that is inappropriate to sexualize in any fashion. While I understand your basic point, you seem to be very interested in denying that there are many situations in life where notions and hints of sex and romance are just not appropriate.

* I hate to think that you might have trouble understanding this, but we're not talking about dating a co-worker. We're not talking about a pitch that didn't succeed followed by three months of radio silence followed by them meeting at a social event and realizing that they are attracted to each other.

* The mutual realization that you are attracted to a coworker is not the same as sexual harassment, it's not the same as being asked out by your manager, and it's not the same as receiving unwelcome sexual advances during a pitch meeting from a man who works at VC firm.

* Asking an available coworker out on a date, however unwise it may be depending on your place of employment and working relationships, is not the same as making remarks about her looks, clothes, or anatomy. It's not the same as denying her an investment or promotion because she rejected your advances.

I hope that clears things up for you.

>> But I reject the immediate interpretation of "man abusing his power to pressure women into sex".

Oh but that's exactly what this was. It was a man abusing his power to pressure women into sex.

>> Grabbing a knee under the table is of course not a good first move, but we might be missing context.

Grabbing the knee of someone you are not mutually involved with is not appropriate behavior in the workplace. Depending on the situation, it may be inappropriate even if you are mutually involved. But without mutual involvement, it's absolute inappropriate.


What follows is a statement that Caldbeck provided to Axios this afternoon.

"The past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life. I have made many mistakes over the course of my career, some of which were brought to light this week. To say I'm sorry about my behavior is a categorical understatement. Still, I need to say it: I am so, so sorry.

I direct my apology first to those women who I've made feel uncomfortable in any way, at any time - but also to the greater tech ecosystem, a community that I have utterly failed.

The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair. The gap of influence between male venture capitalists and female entrepreneurs is frightening and I hate that my behavior played a role in perpetrating a gender-hostile environment. It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I've done.

I am deeply ashamed of my lack of self-awareness. I am grateful to Niniane, Susan, Leiti, and the other women who spoke up for providing me with a sobering look into my own character and behavior that I can no longer ignore. The dynamic of this industry makes it hard to speak up, but this is the type of action that leads to progress and change, starting with me.

I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital, the firm I co-founded in 2014. I will be seeking professional counseling as I take steps to reflect on my behavior with and attitude towards women. I will find ways to learn from this difficult experience - and to help drive necessary changes in the broader venture community.

The Binary team will also be taking measures to ensure that the firm is a safe place for founders of all backgrounds to find the support and resources they need to change the world, without abuse of power or mistreatment of any person.

I owe a heartfelt apology to my family, my investors, my portfolio, and the team at Binary, who have been completely blindsided and in no way deserve the pain I've caused. But most of all I apologize again to those who I've hurt during the course of my career - and for the damage I've done to the industry I care so deeply about."

https://www.axios.com/justin-caldbeck-takes-indefinite-leave...


Compare with his firm's statement:

Binary issued a statement that said the notion Mr. Caldbeck had “engaged in improper behavior with female entrepreneurs” was “false.” Binary said that while The Information had “found a few examples which show that Justin has in the past occasionally dated or flirted with women he met in a professional capacity, let’s be clear: there is no evidence that Justin did anything illegal and there is no evidence that any of his investing decisions were affected by his social interest.


This statement is much more in line with Caldbeck's initial statement:

> Obviously, I am deeply disturbed by these allegations. While significant context is missing from the incidents reported by The Information, I deeply regret ever causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. The fact is that I have been privileged to have worked with female entrepreneurs throughout my career and I sincerely apologize to anyone who I made uncomfortable by my actions. There’s no denying this is an issue in the venture community, and I hate that my behavior has contributed to it.

I wouldn't be surprised if Binary released an updated statement in light of this new apology and indefinite leave.


Caldbeck appears to have contradicted the firm's claim, harming their own credibility.


The firm claims he didn't do anything illegal.

He hasn't copped up to the assaults, and since they were not employees, the texts may not necessarily have been illegal.

Not entirely contradictory.


Their statement says that any claims or reports that Caldbeck did anything "inappropriate" with women were "false". That ship sailed with Caldbeck's most recent statement.


Oh! Sorry - I missed that part at the beginning.


> I have made many mistakes over the course of my career, some of which were brought to light this week.

> It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I've done.

Those read to me like admissions of guilt. I'd expect lawyers to strongly advise against writing such things.


Is he admitting to anything that's against the law as opposed to unethical?


IANL but insofar as sexual harassment exists within the context of a company with employees, my understanding is that his behaviour, while deeply immoral, is not illegal — he has admitted to being wrong, not to having done something illegal.


Yea but a terrible look for the firm.


Compare this to Sequoia Capital's swift and decisive public response when one of their partners was accused to personal impropriety. https://twitter.com/sequoia/status/708549364428316672


BUt isnt that kind of direct action a problem unless there is any actual proof? Imagine that you are innocent and someone is out to get you with false claims, you can lose your job in no time and your reputation can be in shambles before you can do anything about it.


Good statement. I appreciate that it is sincere rather than the refined legalese that first came out and that the firm published. PR professionals - take note.

Caldbeck might benefit by spending time volunteering for an appropriate organization as a way to help accelerate his awareness - and to help.

It's really sad to see this story emerge, and I hope we can all take lessons from it and nudge the industry in a better direction.


Im so, so sorry I got caught. It has been a difficult experience for me.

I would have liked to see more respect given to the victims rather than telling us how difficult getting caught has been for him.


Honest question: can you tell me what phrases in particular you read this way? I read almost everything exactly the opposite way - and I'm genuinely curious which sentences can be interpreted so differently by different people.


"The past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life." - This is all about me, not the women. I've had a rough time and I want your sympathy.

"I have made many mistakes over the course of my career, some of which were brought to light this week." - I'm probably a pathological predator but prefer to view my illness and/or poor character as a set of "mistakes" because that's easier on me than admitting I'm a piece of shit.

"To say I'm sorry about my behavior is a categorical understatement." - I would acknowledge who I probably really am but I can't, if I even know.

"Still, I need to say it: I am so, so sorry." - So I'll just say "I'm sorry" instead.

"I direct my apology first to those women who I've made feel uncomfortable in any way, at any time - but also to the greater tech ecosystem, a community that I have utterly failed." - I did some really repulsive shit, but I don't want to say how repulsive, so let's just call it "making people feel uncomfortable." Also, I'm really bummed that so many people are getting mad at me.

"The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair." - This isn't about me at all, guys. It's about The System. If I just start acknowledging and condemning structural violence, maybe I can get the focus of this off of me personally.

"The gap of influence between male venture capitalists and female entrepreneurs is frightening and I hate that my behavior played a role in perpetrating a gender-hostile environment." - So let's talk about structural violence instead and how I'm just a cog in The System.

"It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I've done." - We all sin, OK?

"I am deeply ashamed of my lack of self-awareness." - If I had known everyone would get so fucking upset at me, I wouldn't have done those things. I hate it when people get mad at me.

"I am grateful to Niniane, Susan, Leiti, and the other women who spoke up for providing me with a sobering look into my own character and behavior that I can no longer ignore." - I wish those women hadn't done that. I'm totally fucked now.

"The dynamic of this industry makes it hard to speak up, but this is the type of action that leads to progress and change, starting with me." - But enough about me, let's talk about The System instead. That's the real problem. In fact, me being a piece of shit and it being brought to light is good for these women. I did them a favor! Don't you see?

"I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital, the firm I co-founded in 2014." - Like I said, I'm totally fucked now and my partners booted me out.

"I will be seeking professional counseling as I take steps to reflect on my behavior with and attitude towards women." - My wife is so fucking pissed, you don't even know. We're probably getting divorced now, so thanks for that.

"I will find ways to learn from this difficult experience - and to help drive necessary changes in the broader venture community." - I still don't really get what I did wrong, but since everyone is so mad at me, I guess I'd better try to figure out how to not make people mad at me again like that.

"The Binary team will also be taking measures to ensure that the firm is a safe place for founders of all backgrounds to find the support and resources they need to change the world, without abuse of power or mistreatment of any person." - My partners are super pissed that I fucked their brand, and accordingly, their deal flow. Please don't take it out on them. They're not cool with what I did even though they probably knew about it.

"I owe a heartfelt apology to my family, my investors, my portfolio, and the team at Binary, who have been completely blindsided and in no way deserve the pain I've caused." - I'm sorry I fucked everybody's shit up.


I'm curious: if you were somehow in his position -- and were now actually genuinely apologetic, were actually blind to your own actions, were actually sorry for the harm you've done --

How would you word your apology such that it couldn't be interpreted in this (self-serving, not actually sorry) way?


A man who is blind to his own actions cannot sincerely apologize for them.


Of course, but the premise (of both my scenario and Justin's apology) is that his eyes are now open.


You're asking how the apology would sound coming from someone who understood what he had done?


Yyes, he is asking exactly that.


"I am deeply sorry for using my position as an investor to take advantage of the female founders who came to me and my firm seeking only our help and support. What I did was cruel and wrong. The harm I've done to myself, my firm, my reputation, and my family does not compare to the harm I did these women. As a man, I will never truly understand what it feels like to be the victim of these transgressions. I can only say how sorry I am, commit to getting the help I need to change, and hope that some day I may be able to make amends."


>As a man, I will never truly understand what it feels like to be the victim of these transgressions. //

Do you think that's true? Like women/men can't harras men sexually?


I do think it's true, at least as a practical matter. The fact that women can harass men doesn't make it not true.


Could you expand on your reasoning, please.

It seems to me that being sexual harassed by a person in a position of authority over you is unlikely to be that different based on sex but could differ a lot based on some of the characteristics that are often skewed to one sex or the other.

So men in general might feel greater humiliation, perhaps; women might feel more vulnerable: both because of the physical strength of men vs. women in general.


I am of the opinion that you can never "truly understand" another person's suffering unless you share their subjective experience. Women's suffering, in general and in this regard, is compounded by experiences and insidious forces far broader than the acts at issue in any given incident. It is both incorrect and intellectually disingenous to ignore this context, and to approach the matter as a simple and narrow question of whether men can be sexually harassed, and if so, how it makes them feel.

Consider Kafka. Any one incident in one of his stories could be fairly viewed as merely a confusing annoyance, but that would miss the point.

But even the structural nature of violence against women is insufficient context alone. The feelings women experience when they are victimized in this way are products of history. And I submit that you cannot share in that experience without that history, which is to say without having been born a woman.

I can no sooner "truly understand" how women experience these things than I can truly understand how it feels to be a black man called "boy." I understand it intellectually, and I empathize as much as I can, but I'll never "get it" as someone who isn't a member of the out-group.

This isn't a contest of suffering. I can suffer just as much as a woman, if not more, but not in the same way. It is the character of the suffering that makes us different.


I don't think anyone contends that you can completely understand anothers experience. Nor that any two instances of suffering (nor any experience) are identical.

What you need to demonstrate is that women are a special class who have entirely different experiences, to any member of other classes, when being sexually harassed.

This stands in stark contrast to some feminist rhetoric as it relies on men and women being fundamentally and innately unequal.

I don't think women are shrinking little flowers, as a class, that experience harassment in a way that no members of the out-class do. This, appears to be the supposition of your post.

How do you suppose you know enough of the experience of members of your own class (eg male) to say they are all markedly different to those of another class (female).

>The feelings women experience when they are victimized in this way are products of history. //

In the general case that sounds like bullshit. Convince me otherwise?


Respectfully, I have neither the time nor interest to educate about the world history of women's oppression and its psychological manifestations. I'm sure you can find plenty of reading material elsewhere.

Also, I'm a Beauvoir feminist, so I'm sure we'd have our differences about gender equality.


If there were a job like, "Professional apology writer," you would be great at it. On the other hand, I doubt you would work for anyone who needed such services, and good on you for that.


That's a very cynical (though not necessarily inaccurate) paraphrasal of his text. I am wondering: what kind of statement could he make, according to you, that is not amenable to such doubts?


I don't think there's anything he can say unless he knows a spell that will take him back in time and un-harass those women.


So the rite of apology as enshrined in our society's mores is entirely irrelevant and inconsequential? (I wouldn't disagree either way, as I don't put much stock into words after events) but if you don't believe in apologies would you feel it appropriate for the alleged perpetrator just to remain silent?


This guy had to do SO MUCH bad shit before he was finally called out and I think it speaks to a major problem with Silicon Valley.

I've been working with startups since 2011 and in that time I've seen:

-A Head of HR who gave promotions to his employees based on sexual favors given. This person happened to be friends with the CEO and employees got in trouble for reporting him.

-A founder and dealing with the above situation and doing an "investigation" that ended with nothing.

-The same founder referring the employees who were fired to their friends dumpster fire of a company so they could get a referral bonus.

-A founder I worked with belittled women, all of their female developers left after a few months. I wrote a glassdoor review and was repeatedly threatened by said founder.

-Worked with a founder who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment to the point where there are multiple articles about it. Same founder hooked up with multiple younger female employees while on coke in another country on a company trip. During a round of layoffs, the women saved were the women sleeping with executives (there were 4!!!). Still CEO obv.

-Finally, at larger companies with multiple younger founders I've seen wayyyy too many situations where male boss puts female employee in awkward situations, whether its an arm around them in the hot tub or extreme extra attention over male employees.

Each time I thought about pointing out this behavior, there was some sort of threat/warning about shutting up and letting it happen, often followed by actual legal threats. Watch who you work with...


People don't know what an absolute greedy cesspool silicon valley is. It's money. It's human nature.


At the risk of sounding like I'm defending the guy (which I'm not), do we have a comprehensive definition of "Sexual Assault and Harassement" ? Because in some places (northern europe for example) these terms have very volatile definitions which allows pretty much anything to fall under the "rape" category. I totally understand that repeatedly violating somebody's physical safe space is a form a sexual assault (grabbing someone's butt etc) but I'm not sure if bad jokes and misplaced remarks (however annoying) qualify as such. (Not trying to start a war here, I'm geniunly asking).


In the USA, "sexual harassment" is generally defined as behavior or words of a sexual nature that make a person feel uncomfortable. Examples could range from an extreme of physical assault or offering a quid-pro-quo to keep ones job or get a promotion, all the way to telling lewd jokes or stories within earshot of a third party, or making comments or compliments about someone's dress or appearance (even telling a co-worker "you look lovely today" every morning).


In Italy we comment and compliment (or criticise) each other's attire regularly. It's widely known (for example) that I abhor exposed feet and will therefore call out and/or criticize sandals, flip-flops, or peep-toe shoes. Female workers do this to make workers, male workers do this to female workers. We successfully share same-sex toilets if the need arises. The regimented gender-divided situation the US seems to subtend is utterly alien to me and seems to be far more awkward than you realize.


Don't let these silicon valley stories fool you. Blame extremists and people who exploit gender relations for money. Most americans are decent people who do the exact type of behavior you mention, and its not a problem.

Big money leads to terrible behavior due to power differences. Men AND Women willing to take advantage of less powerful people. I have a female friend who was sexually harrassed by a female VC, and again the same dynamics played out. Its not about gender but primal human desires and power.


I'm amused by the the apparent controversy of my original post (as measured by the fairly broad swings in net upvotes/downvotes). Apparently the apparent common sense I voiced therein doesn't gel with the silent majority quite as much as I'd be comfortable with.


That's too broad / vague. I understand that if my actions/words are making/will make other person uncomfortable, I should stop. But if a coworker changed her hair style and I complemented it, can I be legally complained against?


The parent comment is not correct. No, you will not be "legally complained against" (I think you mean "am I breaking the law") if you compliment your coworker's hairstyle. See this: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm


As a straight male, my manager comments on my clothes if I wear something nicer than usual, say a button up. It made very uncomfortable. I don't like when people comment on my appearance at work.


Did you tell them? Did you ask them to stop? Did they ignored your wish?


Yes. We do.

Sexual assault:

From the DoJ:

"Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape."

Source: https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault

Sexual harassment:

From the EEOC, the which is the U.S. federal agency that is responsible for civil rights in the workplace:

"It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer."

Source: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm

(Edited to include sexual assault, which was included in the parent comment as one of the things apparently lacking a definition)


If someone is accused of sexual assault, a police report should be filed. If he's hitting on women in inappropriate and aggressive ways, then he deserves to be villified but without details it's hard to understand what he did.

I lost my job and got involved in a complex legal matter trying to defend girls from a predatory person. Most people simply do not care, and will avoid getting involved at all costs.


Reid Hoffman wrote an essay prompted by this, calling for building an "industry-wide HR function" for VC:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/human-rights-women-entreprene...


Is that like some sort of corporate police? That's actually not a bad idea. Like every sort of harassment claim goes to an independent agency to be evaluated and investigated. Any business who wants credibility with their employees pays some dues to that agency and agrees to abide their decisions.


Almost like, the police?

The law should be handling sexual harassment. The reasons why we have these issues with companies is because there's a conflict of interest. The police are a third party and have no interest in the success/failure of the company, ideally.


> The law should be handling sexual harassment.

I think people on both sides of this issue would love it if the law showed itself capable of handling sexual harassment cases. Unfortunately we have way too much evidence that that just isn't the case. The obvious example that comes to mind is Brock Turner getting three months, and that's in the best case where someone is actually convicted. Far too often it never gets to that point, not because the harassment/assault didn't occur, but because the legal system is so utterly shit at handling it. The 'outragism' that so many people decry only exists in the first place because every system that is supposed to prevent or punish these acts has failed so completely.


And we have even MORE evidence that companies ALWAYS mishandle these cases with BLATANT conflicts of interest.

You're basically arguing that companies should become their own units of law enforcement with their own punishments as they see fit, with no oversight. That is clearly not going to work. It clearly hasn't.

If the law is unfair, we have the power to change that law. Exceptions always exist but we can not make laws on exceptions. Meanwhile companies continue to allow harassment on a daily basis, Look at Fox News. Multiple cases. Imagine in other corporations?


I'm arguing nothing of the sort. While it probably feels good to strawman everyone who disagrees with you, it certainly isn't helping you persuade anyone, nor is it allowing you to learn from other perspectives.

While we may theoretically have the power to change the way law enforcement works on these issues, doing so would be dramatically more difficult than making marginal improvements within the industry itself. We shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


Please do without the smug BS first paragraph next time. Try forming a real argument instead. Thanks.

Industry has never gotten this right. How long until we finally see that the company trying to avoid bad PR and make money doesn't have conflicts of interest with these victims?

I've seen too many companies turn blind eyes to terrible workplace environments because the perpetrator "makes too many sales." or is "too important." It's always going to be a conflict of interest.

My advice to anyone is: collect evidence, quit, and file a lawsuit. Any other internal method will lead to even more abuse and fear.


The problem is corporate HR/PR departments acting against public interest to protect their employers. Besides, you can't call the cops to complain you were passed over for promotion because you refused sexual advances.


Why not?

You can call them over racist discrimination. There's no difference here.


-


Uh, isn't it called laws? We already codify victimhood pretty thoroughly. This would be a voluntary extension of legal protection to a credible third-party. Not government, not corporate. Corporations purchase their credibility and are also relieved of forming their own harassment policies which tend to be reactionary after the first public incident. Imagine if GitHub had this from day one.


The apology is well crafted - Pulitzer Prize material but it doesn't seem connected to reality. Maybe it's even a little over the top; it's hard to believe that someone who could behave like this could experience such profound feelings of remorse. It sounds like he is sorry for being caught.


This can be leveled at pretty much any coherent, cogent apology issued after a misdeed has been detected. I'm not saying you're wrong, but some risk of hypocrisy is always inherent in the act of apologising. That's why in the main we're wary of them.


In these situations how are things actually proved? Is it just a "he said, she said" situation? In any case, it's a bold move to go on record, though I'm curious what difference it actually makes.

EDIT: Ah, it seems going on record is necessary to actually bring charges to someone.


This article seems to indicate that multiple journalists were investigating these allegations, but couldn't go to press without sources:

https://www.axios.com/pro-rata-2446752020.html

One journalist got six sources, three on the record, and claims to have verified parts of the stories (such as reviewing message history on phones), which led him to have the confidence to go to press.


Right, I read that, but is it necessary to be publicly on the record? Couldn't the information be privately confirmed, protecting the women from retaliation and still allowing the case/accusation to move forward?

It just seems like an unnecessary risk/vulnerability. Of course, there's also the fact that by going on the record you also encourage others to do the same, which is an immeasurable benefit.


I am one of the three women who went on the record with my name: Niniane Wang. I initially asked to be anonymous, but no reporter would publish unless they had named sources. I knew that Justin was continuing to harass women. Using my name was the only way to stop him. In other words, yes, it was necessary to be publicly on the record.


Niniane, I can only imagine the mental anguish you must have gone through. I applaud you and the other women for taking a stance, a public stance and standing up to these perverts. You are an inspiration.


Thank you for making a stand and calling inappropriate behavior out.


This must have been very difficult decision to come forward. Thanks!


Niniane - thank you so much for having the courage to step forward.


It matters that you went public. It shouldn't require you to go public for it to matter, but it does, and so it does.


Thanks for speaking out, Niniane. To improve the environment in the Valley, we need brave people like you.


@niniane - Thanks for being open with something so personal.

I know it must have been a hard decision to make because you were probably worried about how you & your company would be treated afterwards but this is going to help open so many people's eyes.


Thank you for your courage, I'm sure putting yourself out there has spared other women the plight of enduring the same experience you were subjected to. That's real altruism.


Thank you Niniane. Your courage is so appreciated.


Thank you.


Thank you Niniane. Your courage is so appreciated.


thank you for bringing your story forward.


You have my gratitude and my admiration.


Thank you for stepping forward!


Thank you for speaking up.


Thank you for your bravery. You have my utmost respect.


Thank you!


Like stated higher up in the thread, non-testimonial proof is hard to come by in cases like this. Publishing a story with unnamed sources in such a case is very difficult to distinguish from a smear-campaign.

Not only does naming sources give more credibility, it also doesn't rely fully on the credibility of journalists. You can only say "it's true, just trust me" without being able to back it up so many times.

Testimony of anonymous sources are useful as corroboration, not as the main evidence. The sources here don't need to fear for their lives, nor are they able to produce documents to back up their claims.

I do not wish to diminish the courage that was needed to go on the record here. In fact, this is even more risky because hard evidence is so hard to come by in cases like this.


I could see how being publicly on the record might also protect people from retaliation. If any retaliation occurs now, won't it be easy to point to this story?


Retaliation isn't always obvious. If half of VCs used to return your calls and now none of them do, which ones are retaliating against you and which ones are part of the half that wouldn't have returned your call anyway?


You could ask his employer, which said "...while The Information had found a few examples which show that Justin has in the past occasionally dated or flirted with women he met in a professional capacity , let’s be clear: there is no evidence that Justin did anything illegal and there is no evidence that any of his investing decisions were affected by his social interests.”

So it happened, it's just that he doesn't realize how wildly unacceptable it was.


In this case it's more of a "he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said".


When it involves rich or powerful people, the ability to get many she-said's becomes easier.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but due process exists for a reason. We should reserve judgement until the investigation progresses further.


I am one of the three women who went on the record: Niniane Wang. I'm one of the "she-said"s.

I have nothing to gain from this. I am not suing. I'm founder & CEO of a Greylock-funded startup. Thankfully Greylock has come out in full support, but I didn't know that beforehand and was very nervous when I decided to do the article. The only way that any reporter would agree to publish was if I used my real name. I knew Justin was continuing to harass women, and this was the only way to stop him.

sillysaurus3, you may be thinking of cases where women go to accuse a "rich or powerful" person and are trying to get something out of it. I had nothing to gain and a lot to lose.


As a fellow lady who has bootstrapped her business, and knows nothing about the VC world - I just want to say thank you. You coming out in the open has made the environment better for all of us. Seriously, thanks.


I think you're pretty courageous, much more than I am, as the potential backlash could result in your startup failing.


Would you rather invest in a start-up led by a non-courageous founder?


You need courage to found a startup, but I don't think you always need courage to make a profitable business.


why did your reporter think it was necessary that you go and out yourself?


3 reporters have tried over the years. Justin made threats against them. So they all gave up. One of them describes this in his article: https://www.axios.com/silicon-valleys-sexist-swamp-244683763...

"The unfortunate truth is that I simply could not write this until Albergotti published, as I didn't have anyone on the record, which is virtually essential from a journalistic perspective. "


Wow. Honestly that sounds like a start-up opportunity. Is there really no venue for people to speak out without potentially harming themselves?


Here's a platform that aims to solve this problem:

https://www.projectcallisto.org/

Victims report incidents, an their info is not shared at the time of report. Victims can elect to have their reports unsealed if subsequent accusations are made against the same individual. This mirrors the current status quo, where it's less common for victims to speak out if there are no other cases to corroborate, but makes discovery of other cases more feasible.

It's being rolled out specifically in the context of college sexual assault, but I imagine the approach could work elsewhere too.


Write an anonymous blog about it on Medium or whatever and submit it to HN, you'll get views. You'll persuade or not persuade some people in the blog's truth no matter what you say from confirmation bias alone (e.g. rise in sexism in tech vs. rise in hoax charges). Some people will be more persuaded if you use your real name, for others it doesn't matter. Some people will be more persuaded if you give actual specifics about what was said and done (I'm one of those -- "harassment" is very broad, "groping" might be too, you need to either define your terms or state physically what happened, because you'd think we would all agree on what "grope" means but there are videos you can find of women screaming "help, he's raping me!" when it's just a cop using force to arrest her), but on the other hand too specific and people might find it literally incredible that someone actually grabbed you by the pussy without a tape of the person admitting as much.


There isn't really, because the moment you reveal enough actual details that it's possible to identify you, you also open yourself up for subtle forms of retaliation.


Thank you for your courage. You almost certainly saved others from harassment directly and your bravery also will have saved hundreds of others since those in powerful positions will be more vary and those being harassed will be more vocal. This story is one more stepping stone towards progress.


Sorry, I didn't mean to cast doubts. All I meant was that we should reserve judgement. In this case, it sounds pretty clear-cut, but the point was about future cases that may not be so straightforward.

I can only imagine how stressful a situation like this can be, so I certainly didn't mean to increase it. Best of luck.


Come on, you totally meant to cast doubt. Still, it takes some degree of huevos to stand up in a semi-anonymous forum and admit your mistake (instead of deleting your comment or other dumb stuff). Kudos for that at least.


For what it's worth, I didn't mean to cast doubt on her character. It was more along the lines of "Maybe we should wait to see how this plays out." I'm also rather upset that my comment indirectly made HN a less welcoming place for founders. I've written extensively about the fact that HN has become less founder-friendly and they've had to flee to places like Bookface just to get some support. The idea that I contributed to that isn't a happy thought.


Your comment didn't make hackernews any less welcoming than it was before. Don't listen to their lies.


When it involves serial harassers, the ability to get many she-saids becomes easy, too. Do you really think that founders are lining up to put their personal and professional reputation on the line, to smear this guy, as part of a vast female conspiracy?

They have fucking text messages to back their story up. Are those easy to fabricate too, when it comes to rich and powerful people?


That's exactly why we have due process - to evaluate evidence in an impartial and equitable way. GP's point was more about due process than anything else, so could you extend the assumption of good faith to their comment and engage with that point?


I'm not a court of law, I'm not locking him up in a prison, and I don't need proof of guilt beyond an unreasonable doubt to take these allegations seriously.


Well that and he admitted them. So there's that.


No, I don't. But do you think it's reasonable to crucify him before any investigation happens?

My comment was a bit too female-focused. It wasn't about she-said's or a female conspiracy, but rather the ease of getting people to smear someone that has enemies.

It's hard not to notice that the claim of sexual harassment is as equally damaging now as being called a communist was in the 50's. It's obviously quite different, but the damage is identical. And when it comes to something so powerful, we should at least respect due process.


> It's hard not to notice that the claim of sexual harassment is as equally damaging now as being called a communist was in the 50's. It's obviously quite different, but the damage is identical. And when it comes to something so powerful, we should at least respect due process.

It's not, and it's not.

Communist witch-hunts were conducted by secret, back-channel, anonymous snitches, and were all about guilt by association. Accusations of sexual harassment put the accuser incredibly out in the open.

They were also largely used as a weapon against the weak and unconnected - people without the resources, or even awareness necessary to fight back against secret blacklists.

Not to mention that there is a colossal distinction between blackballing people for being communists, and blackballing them for being sexual harassers.

And besides, if history's any indication, the latter don't have problem making a living. There's always someone willing to take a chance.


You don't appear to know the history as well as you think you do. The comparison is fair.

Communist witch-hunts were conducted by secret, back-channel, anonymous snitches, and were all about guilt by association. Accusations of sexual harassment put the accuser incredibly out in the open.

It was both. A lot of accusations were made in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, on public record, and those accusers were very visible. For example you can read through http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6458/ and see that Emil Lustig, Robert Burman, Herbert K. Sorrell and a number of others had no doubt about who they were accused by - they were accused by Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney.

There was also accusation by rumor mill, which might or might not ever lead to a public accusation.

I've seen both modes with sexual harassment claims. Indeed it is not infrequent that, as with this case, the public claims only emerge after someone has been tarred and feathered by anonymous accusations in the rumor mill.

They were also largely used as a weapon against the weak and unconnected - people without the resources, or even awareness necessary to fight back against secret blacklists.

Most of the people caught up had little actual power. The same is true today by virtue of the simple fact that most of us have very little actual power. But there were very prominent people affected of accusations of being communists, such as Charlie Chaplin and Aaron Copeland. Which is again no different than today.

Furthermore the THREAT of being called a communist was used against very prominent people. That was the heart of Joseph McCarthy's power - powerful people were sincerely afraid of him.

Not to mention that there is a colossal distinction between blackballing people for being communists, and blackballing them for being sexual harassers.

There is a distinction, but I suspect that it goes the other way from what you think.

Communists stood accused of being covert agents of a hostile foreign power that we were at undeclared war with. Their purported aim was to undermine and destroy our country to ensure the victory of said foreign power. And there really were such covert agents. For example Harold Ware, Julius Rosenberg, and Aldrich Ames - all real people and all actually agents of the USSR who worked to undermine the security of the USA.

Sexual harassers stand accused of a personal crime whose legal status is not dissimilar to burglary or arson. They are clearly bad people but not an existential threat to our country.

Which accusation sounds worse?

And besides, if history's any indication, the latter don't have problem making a living. There's always someone willing to take a chance.

Can you provide stories of accused communists starving to death due to the blacklist?


>Can you provide stories of accused communists starving to death due to the blacklist?

They were more likely to commit suicide for lack of work. See: Philip Loeb and Bartley Crum, for two.


And https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/05/02/title-ix-case... presents evidence of people accused but not convicted of sexual assault of committing suicide in response.

The analogy remains accurate.

Should you doubt the analogy, I strongly recommend reading http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/14/when-kids-are-a... to see how the modern "sexual assault equivalent of the communist blacklist catches children in its net, and what the impact is. Do you think that this is rare? Read https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227763.pdf for evidence that 1/4 of registered sex offenders were themselves juveniles at the time of the offense.


> claim of sexual harassment is as equally damaging now as being called a communist was in the 50's

I dispute this very much. For example, you have people like Chris Brown that can turn their girlfriend into a human punching bag... and nothing happens to them. They just say that they are sorry, and keep in making money hand over fist (and even get women on Twitter saying things like "he can punch me any day").

It is documented that he was beating the crap out her, and he has suffered no ill consequences, or lack of popularity. I'm pretty sure that this does not match up with being called a communist in 1950's America.

> No, I don't. But do you think it's reasonable to crucify him before any investigation happens?

He has come out with a statement basically admitting to it after completely denying it.


> But do you think it's reasonable to crucify him before any investigation happens?

No, and if you see anyone hauling an actual, physical tree around to nail him to, you can tell them I said that.

But commenting based on one's perception of the facts based on the published allegations and responses is not, even remotely, analogous to crucifixion.


Do you think it's reasonable to destroy his reputation before an investigation has occurred?

I'm genuinely curious, and the question is in good faith.


> Do you think it's reasonable to destroy his reputation before an investigation has occurred?

I think people should be conscious of the uncertainty in the facts when commenting based on limited information, but that he is entitled to no more deference from private actors than, essentially, avoiding libelous statements (those known to be false or made with with reckless disregard for truth.)

General private commentary is not, morally or ethically, dependent on an investigation.

And, in any case, an investigation has occurred, preceding publication of the story.


Your response changed my mind on the matter, so thank you.

It's especially relevant given how all of this played out. (See the other thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14621765 and subsequent admission https://www.axios.com/justin-caldbeck-takes-indefinite-leave...)

Any ideas for recognizing situations where a bit of skepticism is warranted vs situations like this? In this case, I'm a little saddened that my comments caused some more stress for the founders. One of them personally came to correct me upthread.

I think it's still important in general to reserve judgement and to wait for due process, but is there much reason to hold so fast to those views anymore? The speed at which accusations can be confirmed or denied seems to have increased to the point where it might not be so bad to just assume that the truth will usually come out. I don't know.


Since you're asking seriously, I have a hypothesis that probably applies to a lot of the well-meaning skeptical responses in this thread:

Most of the men replying in this thread have an incorrect "prior" (in the statistical sense) of the odds that a woman will experience serious sexual harassment in the workplace. This prior emerges, one presumes, because we look at ourselves as the model for estimating that behavior, think "there's no way in hell I'd behave that way, so this must be really rare", and assign a relatively low probability to the occurrence.

That prior is incorrect. There are enough harassers out there, each of whom harms multiple people, that, in fact, the average experience is of having been inappropriately approached, harassed, or outright assaulted, to the point where [1] a woman has a lifetime 1 in 6 chance of being the victim of rape or attempted rape, and in one survey, 1 in 3 women reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment. [2] Those numbers may be wrong a bit in either direction, but the decimal point is probably in the right place.

When we hear a claim like "X was sexually harassed by Y", we evaluate the likelihood of that statement in light of our own experience and prior - and assign to it a much lower likelihood of it being true than the true probability. In other words, you mentally calculate: P(harassed | X says harassed). By bayes rule, that's equal to P(X says harassed | harassed) * P(harassed) / P(X says harassed). So when our mental model of P(harassed) is too low, our estimate of P(harassed | X says harassed) is too low. And thus arises excessive disbelief in claims that are more likely to be true.

So, my very geeky suggestion for this is: Be very precise about the question you're asking about and the assumptions that go into it. You can often find a way to validate those assumptions to check what you're asking about.

[1] https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence [2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/1-in-3-women-sexual...


-


[edited to add - I think this is a fair point, and it certainly doesn't hurt to substantiate that more than I had time to last night. Here you go.]

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/upload/repor...

pdf page 15 (document internal page 8): "Based on testimony to the Select Task Force and various academic articles, we learned that anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. ... We found that when employees were asked, in surveys using a randomly representative sample (called a “probability sample”), if they had experienced “sexual harassment,” without that term being defined in the survey, approximately one in four women (25%) reported experiencing “sexual harassment” in the workplace. This percentage was remarkably consistent across probability surveys. When employees were asked the same question in surveys using convenience samples (in lay terms, a convenience sample is not randomly representative because it uses respondents that are convenient to the researcher (e.g., student volunteers or respondents from one organization)), with sexual harassment not being defined, the rate rose to 50% of women reporting they had been sexually harassed."

The cited EEOC report has fairly extensive citations backing up its claims.

As I said - I have no specific numbers I believe are The One True Answer, but it's fairly clear from a variety of sources that the decimal points are in approximately the right place. For the purpose of what I was discussing, 25% and 85% are approximately the same ("Very much higher than one might guess if we use our own behavior as a model").


> Any ideas for recognizing situations where a bit of skepticism is warranted vs situations like this?

Skepticism is always warranted, this situation was no exception (even though the admission that has since emerged seems to implicitly confirm the reports.)

But skepticism doesn't mean don't form and express a view on the facts based on what information you do have, it means be aware that you don't have the whole picture and refrain from action that is too extreme for the information you have, and remain willing to revise your opinion as more information becomes available.

The last bit takes active effort to counter confirmation bias and the desire to avoid having to admit error.

> I think it's still important in general to reserve judgement and to wait for due process,

Even in government, “due process” isn't a binary thing; what process is due varies based on the action being taken and other elements of context. Even if we extend the concept to include private action, things like posting a comment expressing concern would have much less process due than any substantive government action.

Even a government agent acting in their official capacity doesn't have to wait for a conviction to say that they believe someone is guilty.


What due process are you looking for, precisely? Is it a practical standard to apply? Sexual harassment is not itself a crime, so it's unlikely he'll be indicted and tried. Also, "due process" has a broad meaning that goes beyond "jury trial". A good faith investigation by a journalist with six sources, three on the record, could certainly be viewed as due process.


> A good faith investigation by a journalist with six sources, three on the record, could certainly be viewed as due process.

But @sillysaurus3 basically said that there is no amount of evidence that could satisfy "reasonable doubt" with this statement:

> When it involves rich or powerful people, the ability to get many she-said's becomes easier.

This statement basically says that gathering multiple claims and multiple accounts/allegations cannot be proof against a rich or powerful person because of some inherent propensity of women to come out of the woodwork to lodge harassment/assault claims against rich/powerful/famous people. So once you are rich and powerful you immediately win all he-said/she-said situations because people have to give you the "benefit of the doubt." (not that I agree with this statement)


No, it had nothing to do with women, and I resent that implication. I notice you saw the subthread where I articulated that it had nothing to do with women yet still posted a comment insinuating it does: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14621640

It's not a controversial observation that rich and powerful people can acquire enemies, and some of them have been slandered by the press.

It was difficult to separate that situation from this one. I assure you, I'm a reasonable and thoughtful person and it's not fair to say that I basically said there's no amount of evidence that can satisfy a claim against a powerful person.

The original comment was "Maybe we should wait to see how this plays out before making any judgements." Nothing more.

This whole conversation was a request for more information, so if you're going to throw me under the bus for it, you'll just push those who want to ask harmless questions further into the camp of "I shouldn't say a word." And when people have beliefs that seem reasonable to them, this can be a harmful situation when those beliefs are false.

For example, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that a journalist shouldn't wield the power to destroy someone's reputation without any independent oversight. It's a simple proposition with simple, obvious consequences. But pointing out that no investigation is going to occur helped me realize that it's an absurd standard.

EDIT: Also, most of my comments received around 8 upvotes. They've been bouncing up and down, but the point is, clearly a lot of people felt similarly. So by voicing these concerns, it probably changed a lot more minds than my own. Talking this out and being open with it seems like a good thing.


Apologies, but I'm not claiming that you think that there is no amount of evidence that can satisfy a claim against a powerful person. My issue was that the claim:

> When it involves rich or powerful people, the ability to get many she-said's becomes easier.

when taken at face value is implying (indirectly) that it takes more "she-saids" to make a claim against a rich/powerful person believable than it would for a "normal" person.

It doesn't even have to have anything to do with women. It just implies that even multiple claims by separate parties might not be enough when the target is someone rich or powerful (or famous) if it's a "my word against yours" type situation. From my point of view, that's just giving more power to the rich or powerful.


Ah, gotcha. Yeah, that's fair. It's quite obvious in hindsight too, but it was surprisingly easy to overlook in the moment.


If the sea change we observe as a result of these allegations is VC's and tech executives being scrupulously professional in their interactions with female founders and employees, to prevent even a whiff of impropriety, I think we'd all be better off.

If this guy could say "I was never even alone in the same conference room with any of these women, let alone at a bar where any impropriety is a matter of their word against mine" I think this story wouldn't have run.

Seriously guys, when you're at work, just fucking work and all this bullshit magically goes away. No dating, no uncomfortable discussions of race or politics or sex, just do your job and go home. Talk about tabs versus spaces if you need to spice up a Friday afternoon lull.


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Abstaining from certain types of meetings with an entire gender unless your wife is present falls outside the bounds of "just fucking work."


Yes, it is the very definition of reasonable in this case. I believe a reasonable person, given the information available one or two clicks hence, would be completely unsurprised to learn that these 6 women are reporting events that happened, and extremely surprised to learn it was a conspiracy or series of unusually unfortunate misunderstandings.


What "investigation" are you planning to wait for? Who's doing it? What URL will the final report be published at?

Do you apply this standard in other areas? If someone tells you they had chicken for lunch, do you say, "Hold on, let's wait for the investigation to determine what you actually had for lunch"? Or if six people told you they had chicken for lunch?


the difference is that no one is harmed in this situation.


Except for... potentially... the chickens?


>They have fucking text messages to back their story up. Are those easy to fabricate too, when it comes to rich and powerful people?

I believe you are wrong about this. Text messages are easier to fabricate than other forms of digital evidence, and less risky than something like paying people to pretend to be witnesses.


Why are you talking about due process when there's no crime that has been committed?

This is about calling out shitty but legal behavior. The VC didn't even deny he was lecherous, just that he didn't do anything illegal. That's tacit confirmation that it did happen.


Except that people who "she said" often have a lot more to lose than the person they're accusing, and even if they're speaking the absolute truth they end up damaging their careers, reputations, and general well-being. The media scruitiny alone would destroy many people.


Due process is for legal repercussions. The court of public opinion can, and does, operate under a lower bar.


And now a "he also said", given his new statement admitting to the allegations.


> EDIT: Ah, it seems going on record is necessary to actually bring charges to someone.

This is an interesting comment and sheds some light on what is happening here.

There is no need to be publicly named in a news article to bring charges in a court of law; but in a court of law there is a clear and regular process for evaluating charges; and one does actually submit to the possibility of retaliation in a limited form: false accusations carry punishments of their own.

Justin has already quit. In some sense, charges were brought in the court of public opinion -- and for these to have any weight, there must be some element of credibility attached to them. Journalists are not cops and just quoting "unnamed sources" is not enough to substantiate the idea that someone should lose their job, in part because unnamed sources accept no scrutiny and no risk. Attaching one's name to something like this is the only way to lend any weight to it, in the absence of any judicial process.


The second paragraph said he sent texts. Texts can be verified.


Are texts really an example of "sexual assault?" My understanding was that sexual assault had to be physical, though I may (probably) be wrong.

EDIT: Thanks for the clarification, all. As many have pointed out, there's also the harassment portion. I guess my question is now: how do you prove intent? I know nothing about due process, so I'm curious. I suppose in this case it really matters what it says in the texts.


> Are texts really an example of "sexual assault?"

He is accused of sexual assault and harassment. The particular harassment is, in principle, more readily demonstrable (though perhaps not legally actionable, “sexual harassment” short of assault isn't always illegal, though it may well be newsworthy, without an employment relationship.)

OTOH, in the case of a VC against people seeking funding, some forms of what would analogous to quid pro quo sexual harassment in employment could shade into the crime of soliciting prostitution.


> I guess my question is now: how do you prove intent?

In a legal case (which is not now pending from any information published, but that could change), any facts from which an observer could infer that the intent at issue was more likely than it would be in the absence of those facts are evidence (providing that they aren't inadmissible for other reasons.)

Legal proof isn't mathematical proof; in general, the ways you'd forms belief about something in your daily life are how it is “proved” in a court of law.

The degree of certainty a juror is expected to have for a conviction in a criminal cases is very high, but that's not a matter of how it is proved, but how conclusively it must be proved.


Legal definition of assault is not what you'd think it is, and I'd assume sexual assault legally is the same thing, just in a sexual manner.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/assault

edit: For reference the actual physical acts are battery in the legal sense.


The texts are trivially verifiable proof of harassment, AFAIK, there is no trivially verifiable proof for the assault.


Texts would be an example of "sexual harassment."

Some types of sexual assault can be proven by medical examination, if the exam happens soon after, although many actions that qualify as sexual assault will either not show up on an exam, or can be proven to be "sexual" but not "assault." However, in cases like this where there is an ongoing relationship before and after the incident, the text messages will often refer to physical events. These can be evidence that a physical event happened, and what the attitudes and beliefs of the involved people were towards the incident at the time. Although even that is still a large amount of he-said-she-said and drawing large inferences from circumstantial data.


> Texts would be an example of "sexual harassment."

Sexual harassment law only applies to the workplace.


Sexual harassment exists and is a thing people can be publicly accused of even where it is not legally prohibited.

An action need not be legally actionable to be newsworthy, or to be important for people who might want to know of their risk of being subjected to similar action.


No, but they can be strong evidence if they include people talking about what happened.


Not in and unto themselves, but they certainly establish a pattern and lend more credence to the actual charges being brought.

They help move the needle from simply "He said; she said."


There's also harassment, which can be textual.


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