My dad brought home a computer when I was 3 years old. He hoped that it would teach me things—and it did. I learned to spell in English by playing Reader Rabbit and the Fabulous Word Factory

Thanks to free AOL 30-day trial CDs, the computer was a magic portal to a world beyond my suburban Southern California home. I designed websites on Geocities, wrote sprawling tomes of X-Files fan fiction, learned about feminism on ChickClick, and spent hours selecting song lyrics for my AIM profile. Fast-forward a decade: I cared so much about the internet, and its liberating technologies, that I became a media lawyer to defend it.

Things feel different now. Email went from social novelty to work necessity. Late night ICQ chats are now urgent Slacks. Packages arrive as quickly as I can one-click. The computer, and the networks that connect them, are no longer just a tool or a toy—they are the architecture of our reality. 

And yet all of that convenience and connectivity comes with a hidden price. Someone—many someones—are collecting crumbs of our existence, commodifying systems that are both powerful and invisible. Supercomputers are now used to oppress ethnic minorities, automate racial bias in the criminal justice system, and muddy democratic processes through disinformation.

We now confront impossibly big questions: Is having a smartphone in our pocket worth living in a surveillance state? Are self-driving cars worth handing over life-and-death decisions to a computer? Who gets to decide?

We can’t answer these hard questions without hard facts—and that’s where The Markup comes in. 

I am so proud to work alongside Julia Angwin and our team of talented journalists and technologists. The Markup has serious newsgathering chops dedicated to deciphering the invisible infrastructure of our world. You deserve to understand the forces that shape your reality. 

We want to investigate the ecosystem of data exploitation, and we don’t think we can do that while shackled to it.

You also deserve to hear these facts from an independent source. We want to investigate the ecosystem of data exploitation, and we don’t think we can do that while shackled to it.  And so we make a privacy promise to you, our readers: We will not track you. Unlike many companies, we put your privacy first. We collect the minimum amount of data possible when you visit our site, and we will never monetize this data. We won’t display advertisements on our site, because they too often contain tracking technology. This makes our work more complicated and more expensive—but your privacy is worth it. (Chip in here!

But there’s a tradeoff there, too. Because we don’t track you, we won’t know if you like our work. We don’t know if you open our newsletter or if your cursor lingered over a particular story. We don’t have the metrics that let us approximate whether a story changed your worldview or, better yet, gave you the tools to change your world. 

All we have is … you. 

And so we will have to do things the analog way: We want to build a connection with you directly. We hope you’ll engage with us by answering our questions on social media, by giving us feedback on the tools we build, by participating in our events, and by learning from our educational seminars. We’re kicking off our engagement efforts with listening sessions in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and more cities by request. If you’re interested, please drop me a line at president@themarkup.org, or sign up for our newsletter to get updates. 

We can’t build this new future without facts, but we also can’t build it without listening. It’s my honor to listen to you. 

Always yours,

Nabiha