Integrity Institute

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Issie Lapowsky:

"Allen and Massachi, who spoke exclusively with Protocol, are publicly launching the group at a time when those questions are at the white hot core of the international scandal, spurred by Haugen's disclosures.

Called the Integrity Institute, its goal is to build a network of integrity professionals who are currently employed or were previously employed by tech companies and work toward some kind of public consensus about the nitty gritty scientific and philosophical questions that integrity teams have mostly tried to answer behind closed doors.

The group plans to advise policy makers, regulators and the media about how social media platforms work, publish its own research and serve as a sort of open-source resource for small platforms that lack massive integrity teams of their own. Already, Allen and Massachi have briefed Congress and recruited 11 members, who have collectively worked for nine different tech platforms, to the organization. While they don't define themselves as whistleblowers and are "resolutely not breaking our NDAs," Massachi said, they say Haugen's disclosures have sparked a growing interest in the emerging field of integrity work — interest they're eager to capitalize on.

"Frances is exposing a lot of the knobs in the machine that is a modern social media platform," Massachi said. "Now that people know that those knobs exist, we can start having a conversation about what is the science of how these work, what these knobs do and why you would want to turn them in which direction."

Another benefit of the Facebook Papers? "My mom finally kind of understands the kind of work I was doing," Massachi said. 'Emerging science'

Integrity work only really got its name a few years ago when companies like Facebook began assigning teams of researchers to study all the ways their platforms could be misused. Massachi joined Facebook in 2016 and was one of the earliest members of its election integrity team, working on a dashboard to monitor the Alabama special election in 2017 and, later, on Facebook's election war room. He describes his time working on that team and Facebook's civic integrity team as a career highlight, but says the job of an integrity worker was also full of frustration.

"I thought that integrity was heroic, virtuous work that was not getting enough power and attention inside the company," he said. The people whose job it was to make the platform more moral and less messy had to "jump through a lot more hoops than normal product work, and that felt really wrong to me," Massachi said, though he's careful not to bash his former employer as others have. "Our membership has a wide variety of views," he said.

In January, Massachi began reaching out to former Facebook integrity workers, including Allen, to see if they were interested in forming something of a super group outside of the company. He sent potential members a memo laying out the problems on social media platforms, as he sees them, and the potential fixes he would propose.

"Then people would say, 'Well, I agree with 80% of this. I really disagree with the other 20%.' Then I would say, 'Great. The world deserves to hear our disagreements. Let's hash it out in public," Massachi, who also recently completed a fellowship at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center, said. "That was a recruiting tactic."

For Allen, now chief research officer of the institute, the concept of an independent integrity body was something he'd been considering himself for years. "I think this is an idea that crosses a lot of integrity workers' minds," he said. "What does it look like to do this outside the company?"