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Thursday, 24 January 2019 10:55

Popular infosec conference shuts due to 'outrage, disruption'

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Popular infosec conference shuts due to 'outrage, disruption' Pixabay

DerbyCon, a popular infosec conference held in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2011 has decided to shut down after this year's event, blaming "a small, yet vocal group of people creating negativity, polarisation, and disruption, with the primary intent of self-promotion to advance a career, for personal gain, or for more social media followers" for the decision.

In a lengthy statement, David Kennedy, one of the founders, said what the organisers had to deal with the back-end over the last few years was more than just running a conference and sharing with friends.

"The conference scene in general changed drastically and small pocket groups focus on outrage and disruption where there is no right answer (regardless of how you respond, it’s wrong), instead of coming together, or making the industry better," he said.

These individuals were trying to make the organisers act as "judge, jury, and executioner for people they have had issues with outside of the conference that has nothing to do with the conference itself", Kennedy said.

He said this year the organisers had to deal with issues that they did not expect to have to handle with other adults.

"Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings," Kennedy said.

"Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy.

"To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears."

He said the organisers had no idea how to handle this individual, "and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to 'not upset the masses'."

"The best we could do was just apologise, for other apologies, and apologise more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle.

"We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media."

As a result of this, Kennedy said this year's event, to be held from 4 September to 8 September would be the last.

"Please know that this decision was not done in haste, and it was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make in our lives," Kennedy added.

"We looked at hiring third-party crisis management companies to deal with people directly, we looked at having entire companies run the conference where we would become more of the direction and vision, but at the end of the day, that is not why we started DerbyCon. It’s taken a personal toll on our lives, our businesses, and our friends, and it has gotten to the point where we don’t want to manage it anymore."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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