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Hackers ban One America News over privacy issues at conference

(Still frame via One America News Network broadcast, Graphic by The Desk)
(Still frame via One America News Network broadcast, Graphic by The Desk)

The organizers of a security conference have banned employees of One America News after the network filmed participants without their permission.

A spokesperson for the hacker conference called DEF CON told the Vice News technology website Motherboard that the conservative-leaning news network violated its policy by “repeatedly taking photo and video showing people’s faces without the consent of those individuals.”

Motherboard said DEF CON has a long-standing policy that prohibits anyone from capturing images at the conference without first obtaining permission. The policy applies broadly, including to reporters who are credentialed to cover the event, the website said.

According to Motherboard, reporter Chanel Rion and a photographer were taking video footage of the event using a GoPro camera in a way that captured the faces of some participants. Rion was allowed to converse with some panelists before being asked to leave the event.

It was the second time a television news crew was kicked out of the conference for violating various privacy-related policies.

In 2007, an associate producer with the NBC news magazine program “Dateline” was chased out of the conference after she reportedly tried to coerce an attendee into confessing to a criminal hacking scheme.

The producer, Michelle Madigan, declined press credentials on several occasions, according to the website ZDNet, and instead registered for the conference as an attendee. A panelist later encouraged people to play a game called “spot the undercover reporter,” and she eventually left the conference.

NBC News was eventually contacted by DEF CON with an offer to have Madigan return as a credentialed member of the media, according to numerous articles published immediately after the incident. It was unclear if NBC News ever took organizers up on their offer.

On Monday, a DEF CON spokesperson reportedly told Motherboard that the NBC News crew had been “banned a few years ago.” But that ban must have been lifted at some point, since NBC News has regularly covered DEF CON in the years since, including in 2019 when it profiled voting machine exploits that were discussed by hackers at the conference.

One America News, better known by its initialism OAN, is no stranger to controversy — and, in some ways, appears to thrive on it.

The channel has been accused of promoting conspiracy theories and for serving as a television mouthpiece for former president Donald Trump, who is under criminal investigation as of Tuesday morning.

Earlier this year, satellite and streaming television provider DirecTV said it would drop the conservative-oriented news channel amid low ratings and a demand for higher retransmission fees. Last month, Verizon became the latest company to pull the channel from its lineup, with a company spokesperson suggesting the network wanted more money for the right to provide OAN to Verizon Fios viewers.

OAN has since asked customers of Comcast’s Xfinity and Charter’s Spectrum services to demand carriage on those platforms. It remains available as a direct-to-consumer streaming news network through its website, where the channel costs $5 a month or $53 a year. A streaming variant of the news channel, called OAN Encore, is free to view on services like Pluto TV and the Roku Channel.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).