For more than a year, the Observer writer has been probing a darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley. Last week, at a TED talk that became a global viral sensation, she told the tech billionaires they had broken democracy. What happened next?
If Silicon Valley is the beast, then TED is its belly. And on Monday, I entered it. The technology conference that has become a global media phenomenon with its short, punchy TED Talks that promote “Ideas Worth Spreading” is the closest thing that Silicon Valley has to a safe space.
A safe space that was breached last week. A breach that I was not just there to witness, but that I actively participated in. I can’t claim either credit or responsibility – I didn’t invite myself to the conference, held annually in Vancouver, or programme my talk in a session called “Truth”. But I did take the reporting that we have been publishing in the Observer over the past two and a half years, I did condense it into a 15-minute talk, and I did deliver it on the TED main stage directly to the people I described as “the Gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey”. The founders of Facebook and Google – who were sponsoring the conference – and the co-founder of Twitter – who was speaking at it.