12 apr, 12:00–13:00

Crypto Discourse and Internet Freedom

UTKAST Join us at Goto 10 for a historical perspective of how hackers, tech journalists, and online rights activists have mobilized around encryption software as a battlefield for internet freedom.


This presentation explores a history of “crypto” as a battlefield in a larger struggle to define the meaning of Internet freedom.

The term crypto is short for cryptography, which refers to the practice of
encrypting, i.e. rendering information illegible to anyone but its
intended recipient(s).

Public-key cryptography advocates, and in particular Cypherpunks and technology journalists, have articulated “crypto-discourse”: a partially fixed
construction of meaning that establishes a relationship between
encryption software and a negative conception of Internet freedom, in relation to the state.

I map events pertaining to the articulation of the empty signifier “crypto” among interrelated communities of cryptographers, hackers, online rights activists, and technology journalists during a period of forty years (1975–2015). I present the Crypto-Discourse Timeline as comprised of three periods: the origins (1975–1990), crystallisation (1990–2000), and revitalisation of crypto-discourse (2000–2015). The timeline provides an overview of the complexity and contingency of cryptodiscourse as a practice that shapes public policy over time.

This presentation is based on the academic journal article A History of Crypto-Discourse: Encryption as a Site of Struggles to Define Internet Freedom (2017), published in Internet Histories: Digital Technology Culture, and Society 1(4), 285-311. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24701475.2017.1387466


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