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Consent of the Networked Paperback – 9 May 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465063756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465063758
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


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 Internetfrom 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.
"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 webthat 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 folksespecially policy-makerswho 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 waya 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 citizensnot 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 Voicesproject, 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.
"Pop Matters"
Fluent in Mandarin, MacKinnon spent nearly a decade as a CNN correspondent in Beijing, including several years as the bureau chief.... Her insight into how Western perception of the state of the Internet in China differs from the true situation on the ground is invaluable.
"Foreign Policy in Focus"
Internet policy-making is fraught with contradiction, corruption, and colonialism. In "Consent of the Networked," Rebecca MacKinnon has produced an incredibly well-researched account of these dilemmas, which is as deep as it is vast. She uses case studies from around the globe, illuminates essential human rights issues, and names key stakeholders and their positions. "

About the Author

Rebecca MacKinnon works on global internet policy as a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is co-founder of Global Voices Online, a global citizen media network that amplifies online citizen voices from around the world. She is also on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and worked for CNN in Beijing for nine years. Recently, she was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy. MacKinnon is frequently interviewed by major media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times, National Public Radio, BBC, and other news outlets. She lives in Washington, DC.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8da6a678) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8daaf114) 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
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
HASH(0x8d8807c8) 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.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d88069c) 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8da6a09c) out of 5 stars This is an outstanding piece of work on one of ... 22 July 2015
By michael d. mosettig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding piece of work on one of the critical issues of current international politics. Thoroughly researched and well presented. Obviously, this is a fast-changing issue, but the basics are here for those who need and want a solid grounding. Very Well Done.
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