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.

Tom Trewinnard

Gordon Crovitz

Jessica Clark

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Simon Galperin

Sarah Marshall

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Raney Aronson-Rath

Sarah Stonbely

Zizi Papacharissi

Jesse Holcomb

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Mandy Jenkins

Megan McCarthy

Francesco Zaffarano

Candace Amos

Jim Friedlich

Nikki Usher

Victor Pickard

Daniel Eilemberg

Gabe Schneider

j. Siguru Wahutu

Juleyka Lantigua

Michael W. Wagner

Richard Tofel

Matthew Pressman

Simon Allison

Shalabh Upadhyay

Stefanie Murray

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Natalia Viana

Larry Ryckman

Wilson Liévano

Joy Mayer

Don Day

Catalina Albeanu

Matt DeRienzo

Tony Baranowski

A.J. Bauer

Sam Guzik

Julia Angwin

Tamar Charney

Joshua P. Darr

Meena Thiruvengadam

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Joni Deutsch

Doris Truong

Mike Rispoli

Julia Munslow

Christoph Mergerson

Amara Aguilar

Izabella Kaminska

Cristina Tardáguila

Cindy Royal

Mary Walter-Brown

David Cohn

Paul Cheung

Anita Varma

AX Mina

Joanne McNeil

Ståle Grut

Cherian George

Rachel Glickhouse

Kristen Jeffers

Jennifer Coogan

Jonas Kaiser

Joe Amditis

Moreno Cruz Osório

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Kerri Hoffman

Kristen Muller

Robert Hernandez

Brian Moritz

Mario García

Stephen Fowler

Millie Tran

John Davidow

David Skok

Christina Shih

Chicas Poderosas

Errin Haines

Anika Anand

Chase Davis

S. Mitra Kalita

Janelle Salanga

Jody Brannon

Parker Molloy

Whitney Phillips

Matt Karolian

Burt Herman

James Green

Anthony Nadler

Gonzalo del Peon

Ariel Zirulnick

Jennifer Brandel

Melody Kramer

Eric Nuzum

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Alice Antheaume

Andrew Freedman