- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (January 31, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465024424
- ISBN-13: 978-0465024421
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom 1st Edition
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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
“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.”
“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.”
“A vitally important analysis of Internet manipulation that should be read by anyone relying on the web for work or pleasure.”
“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.”
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.”
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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. These would include circumvention and anonymization tools, software and programs that allow both greater data security and portability, and devices and network systems to expand the range of communication and participation, especially in more repressed countries. She would also like to see neitzens "devise more systematic and effective strategies for organizing, lobbying, and collective bargaining with the companies whose service we depend upon -- to minimize the chances that terms of service, design choices, technical decisions, or market entry strategies could put people at risk or result in infringement of their rights." This also makes sense as part of a broader push for improved corporate social responsibility.
Regarding law, she takes a mixed view. She says: "There is a need for regulation and legislation based on solid data and research (as opposed to whatever gets handed to legislative staffers by lobbyists) as well as consultation with a genuinely broad cross-section of people and groups affected by the problem the legislation seeks to solve, along with those likely to be affected by the proposed solutions." Of course, that's a fairly ambiguous standard that could open the door to excessive political meddling with the Net if we're not careful. Overall, though, she acknowledges how regulation so often lags far behind innovation. "A broader and more intractable problem with regulating technology companies is that legislation appears much too late in corporate innovation and business cycles," she rightly notes.
MacKinnon's book will be of great interest to Internet policy scholars and students, but it is also accessible to a broader audience interested in learning more about the debates and policies that will shape the future of the Internet and digital networks for many years to come.
My entire review of "Consent of the Networked" can be found on the Technology Liberation Front blog.
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