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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide…

Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom

by Rebecca MacKinnon

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1544126,535 (3.77)None
Google has a history of censoring at the behest of Communist China. Research in Motion happily opens up the BlackBerry to such stalwarts of liberty as Saudi Arabia. Yahoo has betrayed the email accounts of dissidents to the PRC. Facebook's obsession with personal transparency has revealed the identities of protestors to governments. For all the overheated rhetoric of liberty and cyber-utopia, it is clear that the corporations that rule cyberspace are making decisions that show little or no concern for their impact on political freedom. In Consent of the Networked, internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it's time for us to demand that our rights and freedoms are respected and protected before they're sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. The challenge is that building accountability into the fabric of cyberspace demands radical thinking in a completely new dimension. The corporations that build and operate the technologies that create and shape our digital world are fundamentally different from the Chevrons, Nikes, and Nabiscos whose behavior and standards can be regulated quite effectively by laws, courts, and bureaucracies answerable to voters.The public revolt against the sovereigns of cyberspace will be useless if it focuses downstream at the point of law and regulation, long after the software code has already been written, shipped, and embedded itself into the lives of millions of people. The revolution must be focused upstream at the source of the problem. Political innovation - the negotiated relationship between people with power and people whose interests and rights are affected by that power - needs to center around the point of technological conception, experimentation, and early implementation. The purpose of technology - and of the corporations that make it - is to serve humanity, not the other way around. It's time to wake up and act before the reversal becomes permanent. -- From publisher description.… (more)



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Close to an ideal introduction to issues of Internet regulation. Balanced discussion of the dangers to an open Internet, may they come from cooperations and governments (democratic or non-democratic) and possible remedies. Highly readable with illustrating anecdotes and helpful examples. Should be mandatory reading for politicians tasked with Internet policy. ( )
  ajungherr | Mar 15, 2018 |
Based on MacKinnon's experience as a CNN reporter in China, and subsequent founder of the Global Voices Online project, Consent of the Networked offers an interesting glimpse of how repressive regimes use “networked authoritarianism” to control their populations through their online activities, and how activists evade these controls.

She also addresses the moral and economic pressures on technology companies to bow toward these authoritarian regimes, even as the biggest companies (Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and the like) spy on its users in search of ever greater profits.

Consent of the Networked also looks at the question of who should control the Internet. You will learn about the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN}, the International Telecommunication Union, the Internet Governance Forum and other obscure bodies that govern the net. These bodies decide issues that can affect everyone’s usage of the World Wide Web. The current controversy over net neutrality is also covered here.

What is most inspiring and useful about this book is MacKinnon's reminder that the democratic promise of the Internet cannot be realized unless Internet users become active defending democracy; that is, we must become Netizens. Viewed within the context of governmental vs. corporate vs. "netizen" control, MacKinnon makes a strong case for a “Netizen-Centric Internet.”

I don’t agree with everything MacKinnon writes here. Some of the stories feel a little dated (though some were updated in an afterword for the paperback edition). Unlike other books I’ve read on this topic, MacKinnon is the one who urges all of us to get involved in the fight for democracy online, and offers resources to help you do just that (see the Get Involved page at www.consentofthenetworked.com). That’s the most important part of this book. Make your own voice heard. ( )
  workingwriter | Feb 2, 2015 |
Great survey of the major issues regarding Internet freedom and the many overlapping concerns of privacy, censorship, human rights, and transparency. While it covers a lot of territory the author manages to keep it readable and focused. Serves as a solid introduction to these important issues. (See also Morozov's "Net Delusion" and the somewhat dated but still helpful "Anarchist in the Library" by Vaidhyanathan). ( )
  Mducman | Apr 22, 2013 |
Evgeny Morozov’s Net Delusion is the funnier/more bitter version of this book, which also makes the core point that the internet is far from inherently liberating and that its liberating aspects are under continual assault from dictatorships and democracies alike. She talks a lot about China, which designed its policies much more carefully than other regimes and is able to offer satisfactory censored experiences to many of its people, and is now exporting its technologies of control to other regimes (as, not for nothing, American companies are too). MacKinnon is interested in the slow and difficult civil-society work of fighting illiberal uses of the internet, and she is therefore more hopeful than Morozov even as her solutions are inevitably partial and vulnerable to change. (Morozov doesn’t really offer any, since that’s not his project.) I am a big fan of MacKinnon’s belief in the important synergies between liberals and radicals: “Within the global environmental movement, some organizations and initiatives have seen value in working with corporations and governments. Others are opposed to compromise and insist on radical alternatives as the only course. All points on the spectrum need to exist for progress to be made.” ( )
  rivkat | May 30, 2012 |
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