With each passing year the internet becomes more and more a part of modern life. Despite story after story of hacks, malware, government surveillance, and corporate corruption, we continue to rely on the web for ever more social functions. Investigative journalist Yasha Levine shares observations to help us gain perspective on this system we take for granted, revealing the for-profit surveillance businesses operated within Silicon Valley and the military origins of the platforms and tools we use every day. Levine offers findings from his book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, tracing the history of this modern commodity back to its beginnings as a Vietnam-era military computer networking project for spying on guerrilla fighters and anti-war protesters. His insight offers us an opportunity to reframe this multinational communication tool as a global system of surveillance and prediction. Levine explores how the same military objectives that drove the development of early internet technology are still at the heart of Silicon Valley today—and invites us to reconsider what we know about the most powerful, ubiquitous tool ever created.
Yasha Levine is an investigative journalist for Pando Daily, a San Francisco-based news magazine focused on covering the politics and power of big tech. He has been published in Wired Magazine, The Nation, Slate, The New York Observer, and many others. He has also appeared on network television, including MSNBC, and has had his work profiled by Vanity Fair and The Verge, among others.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle as part of the Civics series.