Did you know false information on the internet is 70 percent more likely to be shared on social media than facts are? It’s a growing problem that starts on the web and can cause real damage in the real world, whether it’s by misleading the public or causing companies to lose consumer trust through fake reviews.
New Knowledge launched in 2015 to help protect brands and organizations from social media propaganda. Its machine learning algorithms can identify attacks early on, and weaken future ones.
The Austin-based company has built an elite team of experts in national security, digital media and AI, and recently added Kelli Mason as its VP of people. We connected with Mason, a former lawyer, nonprofit executive and founder of the workplace inclusion consulting firm Paradigm, to learn more about New Knowledge and what she looks for when expanding their team.
Tell us about New Knowledge’s mission. Who feels the impact of your work, and why is it important for the online ecosystem?
We defend information integrity online. Our software detects and remedies coordinated disinformation campaigns, whether they target major brands, industries or governments. Because what’s online spills into the physical world as it is appropriated into people’s worldviews and actions, almost everyone is affected by coordinated disinformation and the disintegration of our public discourse. Trust and reliability in public discourse is invaluable, and our company’s mission is to stand up for it.
How does having a mission-driven company influence your hiring decisions?
Even as we grow quite rapidly, we are committed to only hiring people who we know truly believe in the work we’re doing. This really isn’t just a job, it’s a mission, and every new hire we make has a role to play in fulfilling that mission, regardless of their function.
One thing we’ve recently started testing is a video screen instead of a phone screen. We’ve seen that video screening can be more effective for the candidate and for our recruiting team. They do require more effort on the candidate’s part than just showing up for a phone call, but that’s one way we ensure at the outset that applicants are truly interested in joining New Knowledge and aren’t just submitting their resumes everywhere and hoping someone replies.
Because we are operating in a totally new industry, we also seek out new hires who are comfortable taking ownership of their work, acting with autonomy, and not expecting to be given a specific roadmap or playbook.
Trust and reliability in public discourse is invaluable, and our company’s mission is to stand up for it.”
What qualities do you seek in candidates for the New Knowledge team?
One of the biggest things we look for are people who are comfortable with being uncomfortable. New Knowledge is a startup in an entirely new field. There is no playbook for our success and we are all working hard to blaze trails in our respective function areas.
While we always encourage employees to ask questions and speak up, we also need employees to feel comfortable taking risks, trying things, failing and growing from those failures. New hires should not expect to receive a specific roadmap or playbook. Instead, they are expected to take an active part in creating those things. We hope to achieve this both through our hiring process as well as through our culture, which makes failure acceptable and ownership mandatory.
How does the technology industry as a whole have potential to create a better world?
The technology industry has not just the potential, but also the obligation, to help create a better world. Technology shapes how we interface with the world, and it consists of tools for labor and expression. The origins and early stages of the internet were largely a manifestation of techno-utopians who sought to democratize access to information for the benefit of all. With hindsight, we see that in doing this, the internet also makes massive deceptions easy to achieve.
Now it falls to us to tame the adverse outcomes of the internet while still serving those early and honorable goals. New Knowledge is doing our part by defending narrative authenticity, regardless of source.