Once, the internet was a utopia, a new intellectual commons. Then it was a goldmine, where new businesses would stake their claim. For the past couple years, we’ve been been covering it as a swamp – a convening ground for trolls and Nazis, a platform for disinformation and and fake news, an impressive tool for fragmenting our national conversation so we can’t even be sure we and our neighbors are looking at same world any more. But before any of that, the internet was a military project, conceived and funded by some of the darker arms of the US military – designed from its inception not just to enhance military communication in the atomic age, but also to conduct massive surveillance when the theater of war shifted from battlefields to jungle insurgencies. That is the broad arc of our next guest’s new book, which traces the internet’s military entanglements from its origins – straight through to some of the services today that promote themselves as protecting privacy.
GUEST: Yasha Levine, investigative journalist who’s spent years covering the tech industry, its entanglements with the national security state, and also post-Soviet Russia. His new book is Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet.