Do you find yourself stumped by what’s happening in the underworld of the Internet? Does terminology like the dark net or dark web, VPN, Tor, worms and Anonymous seem foreign to you? I call it the Internet Underbelly. If you want to get a feeling for the wave of disruptive forces that have ravaged a number of industries (entertainment, porn, music, spying…), you need to get comfortable with these new terms. Consider it part of your ongoing education and a way to upgrade your Digital IQ.

Eight films to understand the Internet Underbelly

In this spirit, I want to recommend eight worthwhile documentary films, many of which premiered at SXSW. [I saw the three most recent at SXSW2017.] Each helps to understand a facet of the internet underbelly.

  1. kim-dotcomKim Dotcom, Caught in the Web, directed by Annie Goldson (March 2017). This film looks at the empire built up by Kim Dotcom and how he went from the villain and founder of Mega Upload to ‘victim’ of a mega campaign to close him and the site down. Clearly, Mega Upload symbolized the difficulty of implementing international copyright law. At its heart, the film contrasts how Dotcom had become the gatekeeper of the film industry versus his right to privacy and the overt strong-arm tactics of the US government and international policing authorities. Film website. Kim Dotcom, will be coming out on Amazon Film as of April 26. Watch the trailer here.
  2. Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press, directed by Brian Knappenberger (Jan 2017). This film looks at the takedown of the Gawker media site in a raw trial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. At its heart, this film provides a rather stark view of the US judicial system and reveals the power of wealthy individuals to squash and/or close down media, if it pleases them. Nobody Speak will be coming out on Netflix soon enough! Watch the trailer here.
  3. pornocracyPornocracy, directed by Ovidie, a former feminist-porn actor-director (Jan 2017). If you want to understand the underbelly of the internet, it has to feature one of the biggest drivers: porn. At the core, this doc reveals how pornography online is more about money laundering than XXX film. The professional porn industry has been upended and the availability to defend “artist” rights has been literally flushed out. There is much unfinished business regarding the role of the Montreal-based company, MindGeek, which Ovidie calls “the Monsanto of porn.” Watch the trailer.
  4. Zero Days, directed by Alex Gibney (July 2016). This film brings to light the terrifying stuxnet worm that was programmed to operate independently and to move from virtual contamination to damaging real life nuclear installations (in Iran). It’s a harrowing tale and raises the need for more international collaboration and transparency, to somehow curtail the next generation of warfare: nation-sponsored hacking. See the trailer here.
  5. Deep Web, directed by Alex Winter (Nov 2015). This film is about the dark web and the rooting out of the founders of Silk Road, a dark net ecommerce site, trading in many illegal substances and items and often using bitcoin, the virtual currency. The film focuses on the uncovering of the identity of the codenamed “Dread Pirate Robber” (DPR), Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Watch film on Amazon Video.
  6. Citizenfour, directed by Laura Poitras (2014). Featuring Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras herself, this film looks at the case of Edward Snowden and documents his journey from CIA employee to informant and residing under asylum in Russia. In so doing, Snowden has become one of the most controversial figures in Internet circles. This film helps understand the place and power of anonymity on the net and the underbelly of Wikileaks. Film websiteTrailer
  7. Downloaded, directed by Alex Winter (Jan 2013). This film documents the rise and fall of Napster, founded by the controversial duo of Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. As with porn, music was one of the most disrupted areas with the Internet. This film looks at the disruption of the file-sharing technology and focuses on the fight for survival of the music industry. It’s a third film that looks at the challenge of copyright online. Watch the trailer here.
  8. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, directed by Alex Gibney (Jul 2013). This film focuses on the world of Wikileaks, whistleblowers and the controversial Julian Assange. Trailer.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these films!

NB Featured image from PC Authority

Eight documentary films to understand the #InternetUnderbelly #SXSW Share on X
Internet Underbelly
Eight documentary films to understand the #InternetUnderbelly #SXSW Share on X

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