The End of the Internet Dream: the speech that won Black Hat (and Defcon)

"The End of the Internet Dream," cyberlawyer Jennifer Granick's keynote at Black Hat, was all anyone could talk about at this year's Defcon -- Black Hat being the grown-up, buttoned-down, military-industrial cousin to Defcon's wild and exuberant anarchy.

The text of Granick's speech is now online, and I can see what they were all raving about. Granick tells the true story of "Internet Utopians" -- not people who believed the Internet would deliver a better, freer world; rather, people who believed that it could, if the rest of us fought for it.

She also tells the tale of how that dream was dashed by giving in to cybersecurity scaremongering, copyright bullying, easy answers to difficult speech, unexamined racism and sexism, and the global war on terror. How governments, companies and our complacency all but killed the dream of the Internet as a force for improving the world.

But she also provides a prescription for changing that -- hope that we can avert that future, and that therefore, we must.

If you wondered why I went back to EFF after a decade of sitting on the sidelines, this is why.

Below, some of the best moments from the speech:

The security community has historically been very good at finding, cultivating, and rewarding talent from unconventional candidates. Many of the most successful security experts never went to college, or even finished high school. A statistically disproportionate number of you are on the autism spectrum. Being gay or transgender is not a big deal and hasn’t been for years. A 15-year-old Aaron Swartz hung out with Doug Engelbart, creator of the computer mouse. Inclusion is at the very heart of the Hacker ethic.

And people of color and women are naturally inclined to be hackers. We learn early on that the given rules don’t work for us, and that we have to manipulate them to succeed, even where others might wish us to fail.


Here’s a quiz. What do emails, buddy lists, drive back ups, social networking posts, web browsing history, your medical data, your bank records, your face print, your voice print, your driving patterns and your DNA have in common?

Answer: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t think any of these things are private. Because the data is technically accessible to service providers or visible in public, it should be freely accessible to investigators and spies.


Globalization gives the U.S. a way to spy on Americans…by spying on foreigners we talk to. Our government uses the fact that the network is global against us. The NSA conducts massive spying overseas, and Americans’ data gets caught in the net. And, by insisting that foreigners have no Fourth Amendment privacy rights, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that you don’t have such rights either, as least when you’re talking to or even about foreigners.


The battleground of the future is that people in power want more security for themselves at the expense of others. The U.S. Government talks about security as “cyber”. When I hear “cyber” I hear shorthand for military domination of the Internet, as General Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA head, has said — ensuring U.S. access and denying access to our enemies. Security for me, but not for thee. Does that sound like an open, free, robust, global Internet to you?


What that means is that governments, or corporations, or the two working together increasingly decide what we can see. It’s not true that anyone can say anything and be heard anywhere. It’s more true that your breast feeding photos aren’t welcome and, increasingly, that your unorthodox opinions about radicalism will get you placed on a list.

Make no mistake, this censorship is inherently discriminatory. Muslim “extremist” speech is cause for alarm and deletion. But no one is talking about stopping Google from returning search results for the Confederate flag.


We start to think globally. We need to deter another terrorist attack in New York, but we can’t ignore impact our decisions have on journalists and human rights workers around the world. We strongly value both.

We build in decentralization where possible: Power to the People. And strong end to end encryption can start to right the imbalance between tech, law and human rights.

The End of the Internet Dream [Jennifer Granick/Backchannel]

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