Cybersecurity Conference Removes US Rep as Keynote Speaker for Having Pro-Life Views

By Jeremy Sandberg

A high profile cybersecurity conference announced on June 14 its decision to remove its keynote speaker because of his pro-life views.

Black Hat, a security and technology organization that had held briefing and training events around the world for the last 22 years, published a statement on its website saying they had disinvited Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas) from their 2019 event on Aug. 7-8.

“We misjudged the separation of technology and politics,” said Black Hat in their statement. “We will continue to focus on technology and research, however we recognize that Black Hat USA is not the appropriate platform for the polarizing political debate resulting from our choice of speaker. We are still fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment.”

There was an online backlash of people who disagreed with Hurd’s pro-life stance, many taking to Twitter to complain. Some said they were canceling their plans to attend.

According to the website Techcrunch, a spokesperson for Black Hat initially defended their choice to have Hurd give the Keynote address.

“Hurd has a strong background in computer science and information security and has served as an advocate for specific cybersecurity initiatives in Congress,” said the Black hat spokesperson according to Techcrunch. “He will offer the Black Hat audience a unique perspective of the infosec landscape and its effect on the government.”

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Will Hurd
House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) listens to testimony from experts on the subject of digitally manipulated video and still images, at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 13, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After the backlash, Black Hat reversed their stance.

Black Hat said on Twitter, “Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative, Will Hurd, as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote.”

Hurd served as an undercover officer in the CIA and a Senior Advisor for a cybersecurity firm. He explains his viewpoints on abortion and human rights on his government website.

“I believe that every human life is sacred, including both the mother and the child,” said Hurd.

Many users on Twitter expressed their disagreement with Black Hat’s decision to remove him.

One user posted, “How was that a good decision?”

Another Twitter user said, “You know what is a ‘women’s issue?’ Cybersecurity.”

Some Twitter users took to a more comical approach to express themselves, with comments such as, “Complete opposite of inclusive, but ok.”

According to the website Cyberscoop, the communications director for Hurd, Katie Thompson, said Hurd wished the conference a success.

“Representative Hurd was honored to be invited and hopes that the Black Hat Conference is a success,” said Thompson in a statement to CyberScoop. “Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don’t necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions.

“That’s why Rep. Hurd is one of the loudest voices for bipartisanship in Congress. This Congress alone he voted for equal pay for equal work, for the Violence Against Women Act and the Equality Act. Not to mention Congressman Hurd would have brought the perspective of a person of color and someone who served our nation abroad.”