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.

Catalina Albeanu

Simon Galperin

Joanne McNeil

Zizi Papacharissi

Tom Trewinnard

Melody Kramer

Ståle Grut

Jennifer Brandel

Chase Davis

Mandy Jenkins

Juleyka Lantigua

Kristen Jeffers

Tony Baranowski

Don Day

Daniel Eilemberg

Jennifer Coogan

Victor Pickard

Matt DeRienzo

Raney Aronson-Rath

Mike Rispoli

Stephen Fowler

Nikki Usher

An Xiao Mina

Stefanie Murray

Cherian George

Joni Deutsch

Janelle Salanga

Burt Herman

Shalabh Upadhyay

Eric Nuzum

Jonas Kaiser

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Paul Cheung

Ariel Zirulnick

David Cohn

Christoph Mergerson

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Sarah Stonbely

Matthew Pressman

Michael W. Wagner

David Skok

Parker Molloy

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Kristen Muller

Julia Munslow

Joe Amditis

Matt Karolian

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

James Green

Meena Thiruvengadam

Natalia Viana

A.J. Bauer

Errin Haines

Anthony Nadler

Megan McCarthy

Andrew Freedman

Joshua P. Darr

Gonzalo del Peon

Joy Mayer

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Christina Shih

Doris Truong

Cristina Tardáguila

Mario García

Chicas Poderosas

Tamar Charney

Jody Brannon

Whitney Phillips

Kerri Hoffman

Larry Ryckman

Francesco Zaffarano

Brian Moritz

Julia Angwin

John Davidow

Simon Allison

Sam Guzik

Amara Aguilar

Sarah Marshall

Jessica Clark

Alice Antheaume

Mary Walter-Brown

Candace Amos

j. Siguru Wahutu

Jesse Holcomb

S. Mitra Kalita

Jim Friedlich

Rachel Glickhouse

Gordon Crovitz

Wilson Liévano

Gabe Schneider

Anika Anand

Cindy Royal

Robert Hernandez

Izabella Kaminska

Richard Tofel

Moreno Cruz Osório

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Millie Tran

Anita Varma