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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom [Hardcover]

Rebecca MacKinnon
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

31 Jan 2012
As corporations and countries square off for control of the Internet, the likely losers are us - unless we act to protect our freedoms. Facebook, Flickr, Research in Motion, Yahoo, Ericsson and Google: what do they have in common? They are technology companies that, while drawing the rhetoric of cyberutopianism, are nonetheless willing - even keen - to undermine the freedom of their users whenever it suits them. Many nations are no better: China, Russia, Iran and even the US spy on their citizens, crush free expression, and otherwise import all of government's worst habits into the digital frontier. In "Consent of the Networked", Internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues passionately and convincingly that it is time for us to claim respect and protection for our rights and freedoms before they are sold, legislated, programmed and engineered away. As the Arab Spring has shown, it is possible to demand what's ours. But we must start now - time is running out.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (31 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024421
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 535,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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 . --James Fallows, National Correspondent,The Atlantic

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 --Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

Cyber Power and governanve of the internet is on eof the great unsolved problems of the twent-first century. Rebecca MacKinnon has written a wonderfully lively and illuminating account of the issues we face in this contentious era. It is well worth reading. --Joseph S. Nye, Jr Universtiy Distingushed Service Professor Harvard University

About the Author

Rebecca MacKinnon is Co-founder of Global Voices Online and a Fellow at the New America Foundation. MacKinnon is frequently interviewed by major media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, FT, BBC and other news outlets. She lives in Washington, DC.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
MacKinnon, a former journalist in Asia with CNN, is an Internet policy expert at the New America Foundation. She is both well-informed and insightful and has written an excellent examination of what is - in the words of the book's sub-title - "the worldwide struggle for Internet freedom".

She explains clearly how governments like Burma, Syria and Egypt have managed to close down the Internet locally for short periods and how governments like China and Russia exercise what she calls respectively "networked authoritarianism" and "digital bonapartism". She sets out how even democratic governments are increasingly wanting to exercise more control over the Net with her native USA opposing the WikiLeaks material going online and having some 50 Internet-related Bills in Congress. She assesses the power and responsibility of what she calls the "sovereigns of cyberspace" such as "Googledom" and "Facebookistan" and highlights how discretonary are their terms of service and how opaque are their processes for removing content.

Like so many books critiquing uses and abuses of the Internet, however, the solutions proposed are very partial and lack detail. The problem is that there are fundamental contradictions in our attitudes to the Internet, even if we broadly share the same 'Western' values of individualism and liberty.

So anonymity on the Net is vital if political activists are to be free to use social media to challenge repressive regimes as during the Arab spring or today in countries like China with its 'Great Firewall'. Yet that same facility to be anonymous enables pedophiles to exchange sexual abuse images of children or professional workers like teachers to be libelled or cyber-bullied with impunity. This is why Facebook insists on all users identifying themselves.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an excellent overview of the ideas and forces shaping Internet policy debates globally 26 Jan 2012
By Adam Thierer - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must! 4 April 2012
By tobrecht@bluewin.ch - Published on Amazon.com
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What are we consenting to on the internet? 13 Feb 2013
By Kate Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important analysis for anyone online 10 April 2012
By Lisa - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consent of the Networked 26 Mar 2012
By Jamesks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent book that was well written and easy to read, while covering a large amount of material in an easily digestable format. A good primer for an introduction to the current issue of the internet world.
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