Nicholas De Pencier’s Black Code Examines Global Internet Privacy

Black Code 



Directed and produced by Toronto-based filmmaker Nicholas de Pencier, BLACK CODE investigates the complex global impact that the internet has had on matters of citizenship, free speech, privacy, and activism.  

Based on Ronald Deibert’s 2013 book of the same name, BLACK CODE offers a startling report on how governments control and manipulate the internet in order to censor and monitor their citizens. With stories from exiled Tibetan monks circumventing China’s surveillance apparatus, Syrian citizens tortured for Facebook posts, Brazilian activists using social media to distribute alternative news, and Pakistani online violence against women, we see firsthand the high-stakes consequences that our unprecedented level of digital communication can produce. As this battle for control of cyberspace is waged, our ideas of citizenship, privacy, and democracy will be challenged to the very core.   

BLACK CODE’s accounts are drawn from the experiences of the “internet sleuths” – or cyber stewards – of the Toronto-based group The Citizen’s Lab. An interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, Canada, Citizen’s Lab focuses on advanced research and development at the intersection of information and communication technologies (ICTs), human rights, and global security.  

“I started this film because reading Ron Deibert’s book was hugely revelatory. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know. And then [Edward] Snowden dropped, and all of a sudden everyone was talking about this,” says director/producer Nicholas de Pencier’s on his inspiration for BLACK CODE. “Thank God it happened early enough that I wasn’t trying to compete against that incredible narrative. But it was early enough that I could then try to position the film as being a post-Snowden film, and [asking] what does the world look like?”  

A favorite on 2017’s international festival circuit in Hong Kong, Warsaw, Oslo, and The Hague, as well as the Human Rights Watch film festivals in Toronto and London, BLACK CODE will be released on DVD for the first time on February 20, 2018. The DVD includes a Human Rights Watch discussion with Ronald Deibert and Edward Snowden and a Q&A with the filmmaker as bonus features.