New Year's Update: Internet Freedom and PublicAffairs

3d printed Snowden at 32c3

Been a while since my last Kickstarter supporter update. So now I have two!

News #1: I just finished a short but packed trip to Germany and Austria to do some research for the first and last chapters of the book. The first leg of the trip dipped into the early (and very dark and ugly) history of computing, surveillance and genocide, while the second part dealt with the "Internet Freedom" movement and the way America's foreign policy apparatus turned privacy and freedom of speech into a soft-power weapon.

You can read some of my notes/thoughts from my trip to the power center of the weaponized Internet Freedom movement: a hacker conference in Hamburg called 32c3. You can also read about some of the attacks against me coming from military contractors who've been unhappy with my reporting on the close ties between Internet privacy activists and the US military-industrial complex, and have attempted to shut it down with threats and smears.

As I wrote earlier:

"...some people have made it their stated goal this year to stop me from doing my job. An influential group of Internet activists at the center of this year's 32c3 event has been making bizarre threats against me, in an attempt to intimidate me into changing my mind and not reporting on what they're up to. For the past week or so, employees of the Tor Project — a military contractor funded by the Pentagon, US State Department and various intelligence agency cutouts — have been waging a social media mob campaign to prevent me from attending. Their aim is to prevent critical independent journalism from covering their insulated (and well-funded) ecosystem. And so over the past week I've been subjected to all sorts of crude bullying, smears, lies and even physical threats. There’s even talk of spiking my drink and covertly drugging me at the event. Lovely stuff, all drawn from the same ol' playbook of dirty tricks.

"I'm a refugee from the Soviet Union. A few years ago, the newspaper I worked for in Moscow was shut down by Kremlin agents. So I'm no stranger to intimidation and threats, and I also know that you don't take them lightly, because it takes a twisted mind and a twisted collective to threaten and intimidate a journalist from doing critical reporting. The Tor crowd may not be Kremlin goons — but their project is funded by the deadliest and most powerful military-intelligence apparatus in the world, so yeah, experience tells me I should take it seriously."

It was ugly and a bit unnerving, but it didn't stop me from doing my job.

News #2: This news item is pretty big and exciting — and something that could have never happened without your support: Surveillance Valley is going to be published by the amazing team at PublicAffairs.

When I launched the Surveillance Valley Kickstarter campaign, my main objective was to write a book that could help protect people’s privacy against Silicon Valley’s growing for-profit surveillance apparatus, and its symmetrically growing political and cultural power. Tech megacorps spend enormous resources to keep us ignorant and in the dark about their invasive surveillance practices — and about the darker military-industrial aspects and origins of the Internet. We can't protect ourselves from what we don't know exists.

That still is my main objective, and I’ve been working tirelessly on this book for the past seven months. But telling that story has been no easy task — not mentally, not financially. It has required hours upon hours of interviews, travel, numerous FOIA requests and battles, and months spent rifling through historical and declassified records. It has stretched me to the limit. With the support of PublicAffairs, I'll be able to deepen my investigation even more, and spend even more time doing invaluable research and reporting. In the end, it will only make Surveillance Valley bigger, better and much more powerful.

I'll have more info coming soon.

I know I say this every time, but I want to say again that Surveillance Valley would never have been possible without help and support from a lot of generous people. It's a dark time for critical journalism that investigates big tech's political power — a time when tech oligarchs are buying up newspapers and magazines left and right. Your support has given me hope that real independent investigative journalism still has a future. Thank you. I'll never forget it.

Happy New Year. Watch this space for updates!

—Yasha Levine

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