Black Code

Nicholas de Pencier

The Internet and social media have brought a degree of freedom to the oppressed of the world, a freedom that is infinitely precious. But that freedom also has a flip side: the web is a giant collection of personal information, offering fuel to oppressive regimes. From Tibet to Syria, this documentary shows the role of the web in the worldwide fight for democracy and freedom.

Black Code is based on the 2013 book by the same title by American professor Ron Deibert, about digital rights in the Internet age. Deibert is managing director of The Citizen Lab, an organisation which informs and warns civilians about the information governments are gathering about their subjects from digital sources. In short, their mission is to watch the watchers.

The global, elusive nature of the Internet has many democratic benefits, but it also has its downside. For instance, its users are barely protected when it comes to personal data and privacy-sensitive information. This sheds a new light on our concepts of freedom of speech and the right to privacy. Illustrated by several stories from across the globe, the film shows how dissidents and activists use the Internet in their fight against oppression, but also how those same oppressive regimes use the web to silence the voices of their subjects.

We see stories of Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, India, who try to evade the all-seeing gaze from China in order to get information in and out of Tibet. We see Syrian civilians who have been tortured by the regime because of what they had posted on Facebook. We see Brazilian activists who use social media platforms for spreading alternative news. And a Pakistani human rights activist who faces online violence, which shockingly turns into actual and fatal violence.


Nicholas de Pencier
Country of production
90 minutes
Spoken language
Arabic, English, Portuguese, Tibetan
Production company
Mercury Films
World Sales
Upside Distribution