More than 7,500 people signed a petition urging The Times not to publish his name, including many prominent figures in the tech industry. “To include his full name in the Times,” said the petitioners, “would seriously damage public discourse by preventing private individuals from blogging their thoughts.” Many in Silicon Valley on the Internet believe that everyone has the right not only to say what they want, but also to say it anonymously.
In this context, I spoke to Manoel Horta Ribeiro, a computer scientist who deals with social networks at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. He was concerned that Slate Star Codex, like other communities, was allowing extremist views to invade the influential tech world. “A community like this gives marginalized groups a voice,” he said. “It provides a platform for people who hold more extreme views.”
But for Kelsey Piper and many others, the main problem was the name and attachment of the man, professionally and legally known as Scott Siskind, to his influential and controversial writings as Scott Alexander. Ms. Piper, who is herself a journalist for the news site Vox, said she disagreed with everything he wrote, but she also felt that his blog was wrongly painted as an upsurge in radical views. She feared his views could not be reduced to a single newspaper story.
I assured her that my goal was to report with rigor and fairness on the blog and the rationalists. However, she felt that it might be unfair to discuss both critics and supporters. What I had to do, she said, was to somehow statistically prove which side was right.
When I asked Mr. Altman if talking on sites like Slate Star Codex could lead people to toxic beliefs, he said he had “some empathy” for those concerns. But he added, “People need a forum to discuss ideas.”
In August, Mr. Siskind restored his old blog posts on the Internet. And two weeks ago he restarted his blog about Substack, a company with ties to Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator. He gave the blog a new title: Astral Codex Ten. He hinted that Substack paid him $ 250,000 for a year on the platform. And he stated that the company would give him the protection he needed.
In his first post, Mr. Siskind shared his full name.