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.

Anika Anand

Raney Aronson-Rath

Joshua P. Darr

Tamar Charney

Wilson Liévano

Izabella Kaminska

Kristen Muller

Daniel Eilemberg

Robert Hernandez

Jesse Holcomb

Zizi Papacharissi

Don Day

Cherian George

Simon Allison

S. Mitra Kalita

Sarah Marshall

James Green

Larry Ryckman

Christina Shih

Gabe Schneider

Matt DeRienzo

David Skok

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Mary Walter-Brown

Gonzalo del Peon

Julia Angwin

Natalia Viana

Burt Herman

Michael W. Wagner

Jennifer Brandel

Richard Tofel

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Matt Karolian

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Amara Aguilar

Gordon Crovitz

Parker Molloy

Doris Truong

Julia Munslow

Andrew Freedman

Whitney Phillips

Sarah Stonbely

Tom Trewinnard

Melody Kramer

Anita Varma

Millie Tran

Mandy Jenkins

Anthony Nadler

Catalina Albeanu

Kerri Hoffman

David Cohn

Ariel Zirulnick

Ståle Grut

Stefanie Murray

Janelle Salanga

Jennifer Coogan

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Stephen Fowler

Errin Haines

Joe Amditis

Joy Mayer

Simon Galperin

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Meena Thiruvengadam

A.J. Bauer

Chicas Poderosas

Tony Baranowski

Candace Amos

Jody Brannon

Sam Guzik

Alice Antheaume

Mike Rispoli

Francesco Zaffarano

Christoph Mergerson

Mario García

Kristen Jeffers

Eric Nuzum

Joanne McNeil

j. Siguru Wahutu

Nikki Usher

Megan McCarthy

Shalabh Upadhyay

Brian Moritz

John Davidow

Rachel Glickhouse

An Xiao Mina

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Jessica Clark

Matthew Pressman

Juleyka Lantigua

Jonas Kaiser

Joni Deutsch

Moreno Cruz Osório

Jim Friedlich

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Chase Davis

Cristina Tardáguila

Paul Cheung

Victor Pickard

Cindy Royal