Black Hat conference disinvites keynote speaker for his history of voting to restrict late-term abortions

The cyber security conference decided they no longer wanted their keynote speaker because of his pro-life perspective.


Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, now a member of the US Congress, will not be given a chance to speak at the upcoming Black Hat cybersecurity conference.

Hurd, an advocate for cybersecurity on Capitol Hill was first invited to the huge annual industry event held in Las Vegas as a keynote speaker.

Black Hat previously explained inviting Hurd in the first place as him being a valuable contributor, given his past computer science and security work, and his backing for many “cybersecurity initiatives.”

These include introducing several bills meant to bring more security into the chaotic Internet of Things (IoT) devices scene. And Hurd would have been the first US lawmaker to keynote a high profile infosec conference.

But then politics got in the way, as organizers took a closer look at the congressman's policies and just how “unique” his perspective really was. They then decided to revoke the invitation.

The politics that Black Hat took into consideration didn't have to do with cybersecurity or even, say, the CIA – instead, it was Hurd's stance and voting pattern in the US Congress on a host of issues pertaining to women's rights.

A recent TechCrunch report which identified the issues Hurd had voted against, like funding for Planned Parenthood, a US nonprofit that provides reproductive health care, including abortion – and against programs to bring more women into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. He has also supported a bill restricting late-term abortions.

As is often the case with such highly divisive issues in the American society, there have been strong reactions from all sides: first, there was “anger and concern” by a number of long-time Black Hat attendees over what policies the self-described pro-life congressman might espouse. And then, there were others angered by the conference's decision to leave Hurt out, some of whom threatened to snub the event, too.

Hurd is not new to controversies, as this Texan Republican has in the past gone against his own party, voting against some initiatives launched by President Trump.

Maybe that is what gave the conference an idea that he would be made more palatable to a certain audience despite his other politics – but it appears that Black Hat have missed the mark in more ways than one.

“We misjudged the separation of technology and politics”, organizers told TechCrunch.


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]