Watson Reviews: Black Code

Documentaries about data and signal intelligence are all the rage. How does this one stack up?

Black Code explores similar territory covered by Citizen Four, Facebook: Cracking The Code, Risk, or even Zero Days; the role of data and social media in the geopolitical order and governance.

This film’s niche in the “big data for bigger things” doc genre focuses on how totalitarian governments leverage social media filters and monitoring to suppress demonstrations and free speech, as brave liberators attempt to bring democratic ideals to these less enlightened regions of the world.

The material is compelling, because the stories of these amazing warriors are captivating, but it feels like the producers are trying to elicit shock or surprise that governments are countering the protester’s use of social media with totalitarian monitoring tactics.

It’s horrible, but I can’t rise to the level of surprise that the filmmakers seem to request. News flash: bad governments do bad things! I was hoping for a little more.

The doc spends a lot more time telling us about the ills inflicting Tibet, Ethiopia, or Brazil rather than how their governments exploit the technology to keep the man down. We’ve seen those stories in other mediums, but don’t get enough here about the documentary’s central premise.

I enjoyed the film, but I can’t say it passed my 60 Minutes Test™️ for documentary films: this could have been illustrated better by Scott Pelley in one segment.

For thatreason, Black Code falters just a tad from more sophisticated offerings in this genre.

Overall, I give BLACK CODE 6.5 “Trump Election Hacks” out of 10.

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