NYU Libertarians Talk Freedom in Tech


Courtesy of Calvin Hoàng Trần

Students for Liberty, an international not for profit Libertarian organization, put on a Tech Freedom Conference to discuss a whole array of topics.

Steve Malko, Contributing Writer

The NYU College Libertarians met this Saturday at Kimmel to exchange ideas about how their ideological perspective plays a role in the economy, technology and free markets.

The Tech Freedom Conference was organized by Students for Liberty, an international Libertarian organization that seeks to empower young students to be agents of change in their community. The conference curated speakers from the tech, legal and nonprofit fields and was the pilot event for SFL’s “Focus Series” which is aimed at addressing topics ranging from energy and the environment to free speech.

Tisch sophomore and College Libertarians eBoard member Calvin Tran said he saw this conference as an opportunity to bring these discussions to NYU in an engaging way.

“We recognized the need for these conversations in a rapidly changing political and technological climate,” Tran said. 

The event itself kicked off in the morning with Daniel Halper of the global education company General Assembly, guiding the 60 plus attendees through a whirlwind tour of entrepreneurship and the startup ecosystem. Switching gears, Sahid Buttar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group, discussed the practical and political implications of Apple’s fight with the FBI.

The diversity of topics was mirrored by the attendees, drawn from not only the NYU student body but the surrounding city. Attendees included practicing lawyers, engineering students from Stevens Institute of Technology, entrepreneurs and students from Columbia’s Schools of Law and International and Public Affairs.

The afternoon included presentations on Blockchain technology — the main technological innovation of bitcoin — the sharing economy and the state of the law. Greg Reed, attorney at the Institute for Justice, warned that today’s courts are applying early 20th century laws to 21st century technology.

“With the arcane regulation around Uber, Tesla and Airbnb, some of the most creative people today aren’t in tech or the arts; they’re sitting on the bench thinking of ways to stymie innovation,” Reed said.

The global impact of technology not only economically, but socially, was emphasized by speaker Fereshteh Forough, founder of Code to Inspire, the first programing school for girls in Afghanistan. Fereshteh shared her personal struggle as a woman in technology and as the first female on the faculty of computer science at Herat University.

“Men would not show up for my class because it was taught by a woman,” Fereshteh said. “Out of a class of maybe 70 students only five would even show up after they found out.”

Tran said technology was the perfect topic for the Libertarians’ first conference because of its scope.

“It touches everything in our daily lives from the way we make a living to how we exercises free speech,” Tran said. “As a tool of freedom, technology must be kept free.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 4 print edition. Email Steve Malko at [email protected]