Jeeves, How Did the Crypto Wars of the 1990s Shape Modern Tech Policy Organizing Efforts?

Advocates back then developed strategies that still help guide today's digital activists

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Media Outlet: Medium

In recent years, improbable pro-consumer victories on issues like copyright and net neutrality have largely been attributed to a new wave of digital activism. Using a blend of new online tools and more traditional offline advocacy tactics, an unprecedented number of individuals and organizations helped shape the outcomes of these technology policy debates — just look at the nearly four million Americans who submitted comments in the 2014 net neutrality proceeding. But in the rush to characterize this new phenomenon, some commentators seem to have forgotten about an important piece of history. Key elements of the strategies employed in these campaigns — not to mention to use of the Internet itself as an organizing platform — were actually born in the bygone era of AOL and Ask Jeeves, during the so-called “Crypto Wars” of the 1990s.

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Danielle Kehl is a fellow at New America's Open Technology Institute, where she researches and writes about technology policy issues.