The end of the Silicon Valley insider–critic

“We have a generation of ‘veteran tech critics’ with ties to the industry they comment on.”

Ten years ago, it was relatively difficult to find critical coverage of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other companies in the tech sector — it was hard to find any critical tech coverage. Stories like Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures and the Cambridge Analytica scandal led to ramped-up journalism resources and attention, and in many cases, reporters staffed full-time on the tech beat, but before then, legacy media regarded Silicon Valley as a niche concern. Anything related to tech was significantly underreported despite the scale and influence of the industry that was only growing.

If you wanted to read about a new feature that Facebook implemented in 2011, you might have ended up on the blog of someone who worked in the tech industry — perhaps even the blog of someone who worked at Facebook and on that product. In the absence of professional journalists covering tech, there was independent media like blogs and newsletters to fill the gap.

Consequently, we have a generation of “veteran tech critics” with ties to the industry they comment on. These could be academics with fellowships funded by Microsoft or employees at Google who spoke critically about Facebook’s privacy issues at tech conferences around the globe. The sheen of expertise that experience inside these major companies might have conveyed before is dimming as the wider public begins to recognize that the problems Silicon Valley companies inflict on society are not new, but problems that rooted in their very inception. There were people organizing Google bus protests in 2013. Why should we listen to the people who were inside the buses then, if they’ve had a change of heart, and are now more politically aligned with the protesters they ignored before?

The belief in a tech insider as a tech expert is what led The New York Times to publish Nick Clegg’s op-ed in 2019, “Breaking up Facebook is not the answer.” Clegg is Facebook’s VP of global affairs, and his is an outrageously unpopular position that perhaps only one other person on earth could argue with full conviction (Mark Zuckerberg). Likewise, the Silicon Valley whistleblower-to-Aspen Ideas Festival pipeline that Frances Haugen has staked looks increasingly like a cynical face-saving measure post-“techlash.”

But now there is a deep bench of reporters and commentators with expertise in the tech industry who have never taken Silicon Valley money. These are the real experts.

Ten years ago, it was relatively difficult to find critical coverage of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other companies in the tech sector — it was hard to find any critical tech coverage. Stories like Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures and the Cambridge Analytica scandal led to ramped-up journalism resources and attention, and in many cases, reporters staffed full-time on the tech beat, but before then, legacy media regarded Silicon Valley as a niche concern. Anything related to tech was significantly underreported despite the scale and influence of the industry that was only growing.

If you wanted to read about a new feature that Facebook implemented in 2011, you might have ended up on the blog of someone who worked in the tech industry — perhaps even the blog of someone who worked at Facebook and on that product. In the absence of professional journalists covering tech, there was independent media like blogs and newsletters to fill the gap.

Consequently, we have a generation of “veteran tech critics” with ties to the industry they comment on. These could be academics with fellowships funded by Microsoft or employees at Google who spoke critically about Facebook’s privacy issues at tech conferences around the globe. The sheen of expertise that experience inside these major companies might have conveyed before is dimming as the wider public begins to recognize that the problems Silicon Valley companies inflict on society are not new, but problems that rooted in their very inception. There were people organizing Google bus protests in 2013. Why should we listen to the people who were inside the buses then, if they’ve had a change of heart, and are now more politically aligned with the protesters they ignored before?

The belief in a tech insider as a tech expert is what led The New York Times to publish Nick Clegg’s op-ed in 2019, “Breaking up Facebook is not the answer.” Clegg is Facebook’s VP of global affairs, and his is an outrageously unpopular position that perhaps only one other person on earth could argue with full conviction (Mark Zuckerberg). Likewise, the Silicon Valley whistleblower-to-Aspen Ideas Festival pipeline that Frances Haugen has staked looks increasingly like a cynical face-saving measure post-“techlash.”

But now there is a deep bench of reporters and commentators with expertise in the tech industry who have never taken Silicon Valley money. These are the real experts.

Anita Varma

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Cindy Royal

Simon Allison

Melody Kramer

Whitney Phillips

Kerri Hoffman

Kristen Muller

Tom Trewinnard

Cristina Tardáguila

Chicas Poderosas

Wilson Liévano

Julia Angwin

James Green

Jennifer Coogan

Joanne McNeil

Gonzalo del Peon

Christoph Mergerson

Jonas Kaiser

Joni Deutsch

An Xiao Mina

Megan McCarthy

Brian Moritz

Nikki Usher

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Jesse Holcomb

Stefanie Murray

Sarah Marshall

Anthony Nadler

Simon Galperin

Tony Baranowski

Alice Antheaume

Daniel Eilemberg

Michael W. Wagner

Mandy Jenkins

Ariel Zirulnick

Mario García

David Cohn

Moreno Cruz Osório

Shalabh Upadhyay

Eric Nuzum

Gordon Crovitz

j. Siguru Wahutu

Don Day

Mary Walter-Brown

Sarah Stonbely

Amy Schmitz Weiss

David Skok

Joshua P. Darr

Jim Friedlich

Paul Cheung

John Davidow

Izabella Kaminska

Francesco Zaffarano

Cherian George

Janelle Salanga

Gabe Schneider

Stephen Fowler

Rachel Glickhouse

Candace Amos

Burt Herman

Jennifer Brandel

Julia Munslow

Juleyka Lantigua

Meena Thiruvengadam

Matt Karolian

Amara Aguilar

Joe Amditis

S. Mitra Kalita

Parker Molloy

Mike Rispoli

Richard Tofel

Christina Shih

A.J. Bauer

Joy Mayer

Errin Haines

Jessica Clark

Anika Anand

Natalia Viana

Zizi Papacharissi

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Robert Hernandez

Ståle Grut

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Tamar Charney

Chase Davis

Larry Ryckman

Doris Truong

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Catalina Albeanu

Kristen Jeffers

Matthew Pressman

Matt DeRienzo

Millie Tran

Raney Aronson-Rath

Sam Guzik

Andrew Freedman

Jody Brannon

Victor Pickard