Black Hat cancels Rep. Will Hurd's headline speech after Twitter backlash

Opponents criticized Hurd's record on women's rights.

Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
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Laura Hautala
2 min read
Rep. Will Hurd

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is no longer scheduled to give a headline speech at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference.

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In an abrupt about-face, the organizers of Black Hat USA removed Rep. Will Hurd as keynote speaker on Friday, a day after they had announced his appearance at the annual cybersecurity conference. The cancelation of the politician's appearance followed a backlash on Twitter, where people in the industry called it inappropriate.

"We are still fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment," conference organizers said in part in its statement Friday.

Hurd, a Republican who represents Texas' 13th District, has been a vocal supporter of using tech-based solutions at the US-Mexico border in lieu of a wall. He has also voted to curtail access to abortion. In 2015, he voted against an amendment that would have offered financial support to women in STEM -- the bill lost by a vote of 204-217.

"A keynote from a lawmaker who doesn't believe women should have fundamental human rights is not a great way make women feel welcome in the infosec community," Electronic Frontier Foundation director of cybersecurity Eva Galperin said in a tweet on Thursday. Others said they were canceling their plans to attend the conference.

"Rep. Hurd was honored to be invited and hopes that the Black Hat Conference is a success," said Katie Thompson, communications director for Hurd, in an email. "Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don't necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions."

Thompson added that Hurd has voted for pay equality and 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," she said.

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