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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom Hardcover – January 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024421
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Who owns the Internet is a question commonly answered with descriptions of how it is decentralized and anonymous, thus implying that the answer is no one. Otherwise, web surfers wouldn’t see the plethora of extreme site choices, from online alternative-medicine guides to antigovernment chat rooms. Yet according to media policy expert MacKinnon, the freedom to post and roam on the Internet to one’s heart’s content with minimal privacy worries is being curtailed insidiously from multiple sources. MacKinnon begins by drawing on her past experience as a Beijing CNN correspondent, describing how, far from being a tool for undermining tyranny as it was during the recent Egyptian regime collapse, the Internet in China has been policed and co-opted by the government to spy on its citizens. Although these human-rights abuses are not as obvious in Western nations, MacKinnon points out that American corporate interests and political conservatives are pushing to restrict Internet freedoms as well. A vitally important analysis of Internet manipulation that should be read by anyone relying on the web for work or pleasure. --Carl Hays

Review

James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic
“For nearly a decade, Rebecca MacKinnon has been at the center of evolving debates about how the Internet will affect democracy, privacy, individual liberties, and the other values free societies want to defend. Here she makes a persuasive and important case that, as with other technological revolutions through history, the effects of today’s new communications systems, for human liberation or for oppression, will depend not on the technologies themselves but rather on the resolve of citizens to shape the way in which they are used.”

Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
Consent of the Networked will become the seminal book firmly establishing the responsibility of those who control the architecture and the politics of the network to the citizens who inhabit our new digital world. Consent of the Networked should be required reading for all of those involved in building our networked future as well as those who live in it.”
 
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
Consent of the Networked is a must-read for anyone interested in freedom of personal and political expression in the 21st century. It’s accessible, engaging, and periodically hair-raising. It should have the same impact on public awareness of the vital issues surrounding Internet freedom that ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ had with regard to climate change.”
 
Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and President of Ireland
“The Internet poses the most complex challenges and opportunities for human rights to have emerged over the last decade. Rebecca MacKinnon’s book is a clear-eyed guide through that complexity.”
 
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Future of Power
“Cyber power and governance of the internet is one of the great unsolved problems of the 21st century. Rebecca MacKinnon has written a wonderfully lively and illuminating account of the issues we face in this contentious area. It is well worth reading.”
 
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
“A growing number of people throughout the world are counting on the Internet to move their countries in a more democratic direction. Consent of the Networked describes what’s happening, successes and failures, what’s next, and what needs to be done. It’s the real deal.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
“An incisive overview of the global struggle for Internet freedom. . . . In her wide-ranging book, MacKinnon details the many ways in which governments, corporations and others are using the Internet—from empowering people to helping authoritarian dictators survive.”

Booklist
“A vitally important analysis of Internet manipulation that should be read by anyone relying on the web for work or pleasure.”

Mother Jones
“[A] sharp, sobering rebuttal [to] heady rhetoric, questioning and complicating our understandings of what it means to be free online. MacKinnon’s book presents a cogent picture of the many ways in which our lives, both online and off, are increasingly affected by regulators, politicians, and companies seeking to carve territories into the still-amorphous web. . . .  [T]he book’s intention isn’t to offer up a set of neat solutions, but to spur all of us to pay more attention to the threats lurking beneath the web’s shiny baubles, and to exhort us to take a more active role in claiming and defending our digital power, rights, and freedoms. In that, Consent of the Networked succeeds admirably; it should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of the web—that is, for all of us.”
 
Micah L. Sifriy, techPresident.com
“Count me among those who are thoroughly convinced by MacKinnon’s reporting and arguments. . . . In many ways, MacKinnon’s book is the one Evgeny Morozov should have written, if he was more interested in building a sensible movement for Internet freedom rather than conducting scorched-earth warfare against people who believe the Internet can help strengthen democratic culture. . . . While Consent of the Networked offers netizens a workable roadmap to a real vision of internet freedom, the people who should most read this book aren’t the already aware, but folks—especially policy-makers—who see all the shiny devices and trendy social media and foolishly assume that the Internet will ultimately prevail. It might, but only if we understand what a lucky and unusual accident the Internet really is, and that to keep it open and free, we have to fight for it.”
 
Washington Times
“Insightful and moving… Ms. MacKinnon’s stories of the effort occurring worldwide as people harness the Internet, often with a political, socioeconomic or religious motivation, are discerning, harrowing and empowering. From Egypt’s record of torturing and jailing bloggers, China’s system of corporate-level censorship and South Korea’s strict requirements for real identification for online users, Ms. MacKinnon repeatedly strikes the appropriate balance between a technological discussion of the Net and the significance of human rights. . . . Packed with thorough and impeccable research and persuasive, eye-opening anecdotes from around the world, Consent of the Networked should spearhead a robust debate and join the handful of other books that successfully guide the reader through the land mines surrounding responsible use of the Internet.”
 
Boston Globe
“Internet policy maven Rebecca MacKinnon warns in an important new book… that the liberating power of digital technology is under threat from corporations and governments alike. . . . [MacKinnon] argues that neither political action nor competitive pressure spawned by the free market will protect our rights, finally making a strong case for a third way—a nongovernmental watchdog with sufficient clout to preserve freedom on the Internet.”
 
New York Journal of Books
“Ms. MacKinnon provides expert reporting and analysis of Internet censorship and acts against individuals by authoritarian regimes around the world including China, Iran, and Egypt, among others. Communication doesn’t move in a straight line, and more often than not, it occurs outside the lines of what we many people like. . . . [If] you are a Google user and don’t understand their recently updated privacy policy, and are tired of trying to puzzle it out, then Consent of the Networked is for you.”
 
Wall Street Journal
“[M]any thinkers on the information-wants-to-be-free side of the debate present the same binary choice, seeing almost any state control of the Internet, or any government attempt to protect intellectual property, or even the attempts of private social networks to get people to log in with their real names, as affronts to democracy comparable with the worst excesses of repressive regimes. Luckily, Ms. MacKinnon’s analysis is more nuanced and balanced than that, and Consent of the Networked is an excellent survey of the Internet’s major fault lines.”
 
Observer (UK)
“In her grand sweep of ‘the worldwide struggle for internet freedom’, Rebecca MacKinnon alights on the many dilemmas facing policy makers and corporate chiefs, and the many threats that cyberspace poses for individual liberty. . . .  Thoroughly researched by one of the experts in the field, the book straddles the line between an academic and general audience. Mac Kinnon entreats internet users to see themselves as active citizens—not consumers or eyeballs. She harks back to Huxley’s Brave New World… [and] ends with a rallying cry.”
 
L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal
“‘Consent of the Networked’ describes how important it’s been for the Internet to develop outside of multinational organizations, with technology companies, engineering associations and civil society groups having as much influence as governments. . . . Applying the political-science notion of a social contract to the Web for ‘consent of the networked’ is a novel approach. It recognizes that the Web is global, with an inherent ideology in favor of more transparency and greater access to information.”
 
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“It is an absolutely indispensable account of the way that technology both serves freedom and removes it. MacKinnon is co-founder of the Global Voices project, and a director of the Global Network Initiative, and is one of the best-informed, clearest commentators on issues of networks and freedom from a truly global perspective. MacKinnon does a fantastic job of tying her theory and analysis to real-world stories.”

Guardian (UK)
“This timely, scholarly survey of global offences against ‘freedom’ on the internet also points out that Facebook, Google and the like supply ‘corporate’ rather than ‘public’ spaces, whose users are subject to the unsophisticated moral diktats of their owners.”
 ...

More About the Author

Rebecca MacKinnon is a Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, where she conducts research, writing and advocacy on global Internet policy, free expression, and the impact of digital technologies on human rights. She is cofounder of Global Voices, an international citizen media network. She also serves on the Boards of Directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Global Network Initiative. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, MacKinnon worked as a journalist for CNN in Beijing for nine years and was Beijing Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 1998-2001, then served as CNN's Tokyo Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 2001-03. From 2004-06 she was a Research Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where she began her ongoing research and writing about the Chinese Internet in addition to launching Global Voices with colleague Ethan Zuckerman. In 2007-08 she taught online journalism at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre. In 2009 she conducted research and writing as an Open Society Fellow, and in the Spring of 2010 she was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton's Center or Information Technology Policy. MacKinnon received her AB magna cum laude from Harvard College and was a Fullbright scholar in Taiwan in 1991-92. She currently lives in Washington, DC.

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Adam Thierer on January 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MacKinnon's book is well-researched exploration of the forces driving Internet developments and policy across the globe today. She serves up an outstanding history of recent global protest movements and social revolutions and explores the role that Internet technologies and digital networks played in those efforts. In particular, her coverage of China and the Net is outstanding. She also surveys some of the recent policy fights here and abroad over issues such as online privacy, Net neutrality regulation, free speech matters, and the copyright wars. It is certainly worth reading and will go down as one of the most important Internet policy books of 2012.

Her book is an attempt to take the Net freedom movement to the next level; to formalize it and to put in place a set of governance principles that will help us hold the "sovereigns of cyberspace" more accountable. Many of her proposals are quite sensible. But my primary problem with MacKinnon's book lies in her use of the term "digital sovereigns" or "sovereigns of cyberspace" and the loose definition of "sovereignty" that pervades the narrative. She too often blurs and equates private power and political power, and she sometimes leads us to believe that the problem of the dealing with the mythical nation-states of "Facebookistan" and "Googledom" is somehow on par with the problem of dealing with actual sovereign power -- government power -- over digital networks, online speech, and the world's Netizenry.

But MacKinnon has many other ideas about Net governance in the book that are less controversial and entirely sensible. She wants to "expand the technical commons" by building and distributing more tools to help activists and make organizations more transparent and accountable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By tobrecht@bluewin.ch on April 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Consent of the Networked is a must for all people who realize that the future of a free and democratic internet is not at all guaranteed and that we have to contribute in order to make sure that cyberspace is not ruled by some weird Big Brothers. Rebecca MacKinnon gives a very good account of the challenges in this new, fabulous, profitable and highly contested playing field where huge corporate empires compete with nation states and where freedom of information is threatened at every corner. After reading this book, we understand that from simple users we have to become citizens of the Internet who fight for their rights.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kate Crawford on February 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a provocative book that is well argued. All of us using the internet in the modern world need to be aware of the political issues arround this new interactive technology that crosses many of the boundaries of the past. The extensive use of networks and the changing conceptions of open development, property, consent, and privacy will require new conversations and better public education for the informed consent of people. This book should be compuslory reading for all courses training people to work in telco networks and related industries.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book did lag a few times...the topic can get complex or technical. I still loved it.

The author takes a detailed, but not overly so, look at a variety of the online challenges to rights and freedoms globally. As we mostly know, the technology moves much faster than the laws thus we are all operating in a largely unregulated online world at least some of the time. The book helped me better understand the related issues and I thought deeper about the topic (a good thing, in my opinion).

I've been recommending this book widely.
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