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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedomby Rebecca Mackinnon
Synopses & Reviews
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. Facebooks 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 its time for us to demand that our rights and freedoms are respected and protected before theyre 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. Its time to wake up and act before the reversal becomes permanent.
"A global Internet policy advocate, MacKinnon argues in this fascinating and provocative book that it's time to stop debating whether the Internet is an effective tool for political expression and to move on to the much more urgent question of how digital technology can be structured, governed, and used to maximize the good it can do in the world and minimize the evil. The first step in such a process involves building broader public awareness and participation; individuals must stop thinking of themselves as passive consumers of the Internet and start acting like citizens of the Internet, or 'netizens.' Some activists have urged that individuals should build their own networked intellectual commons rather than relying on the Internet. In 2011, Access Now, an Internet freedom advocacy group, drafted the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, advocating 10 principles, ranging from universality and equality, accessibility, and rights and social justice to diversity and network equality. Embracing this document, MacKinnon forcefully and passionately urges us to stake out our Internet rights before governments or corporations completely take those rights away from us." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
MacKinnon (global Internet policy, New America Foundation) has written a book that reflects her concerns about what will happen to the Internet and the future of freedoms in the Internet era in a very 'big picture' way. And in a way, it could be considered a public awareness campaign for those who want to continue to use Internet technology to express themselves and organize peacefully without censorship or fear of reprisal. The book will interest readers concerned about the intentional or unintentional erosion of Internet-related freedoms and as she refers to them, "the inconvenient truths of the Internet age." Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The future of your freedom depends on whether you assert your rights within the digital spaces you inhabit. But, as corporations and countries square off on—and over—the internet, the likely losers are us.
The Internet was going to liberate us, but in truth it has not. For every story about the web’s empowering role in events such as the Arab Spring, there are many more about the quiet corrosion of civil liberties by companies and governments using the same digital technologies we have come to depend upon.
Sudden changes in Facebook’s features and privacy settings have exposed identities of protestors to police in Egypt and Iran. Apple removes politically controversial apps at the behest of governments as well as for its own commercial reasons. Dozens of Western companies sell surveillance technology to dictatorships around the world. Google struggles with censorship demands from governments in a range of countries—many of them democracies—as well as mounting public concern over the vast quantities of information it collects about its users.
In Consent of the Networked, journalist and Internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it is time to fight for our rights before they are sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. Every day, the corporate sovereigns of cyberspace make decisions that affect our physical freedom—but without our consent. Yet the traditional solution to unaccountable corporate behavior—government regulation—cannot stop the abuse of digital power on its own, and sometimes even contributes to it.
A clarion call to action, Consent of the Networked shows that it is time to stop arguing over whether the Internet empowers people, and address the urgent question of how technology should be governed to support the rights and liberties of users around the world.
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 Universitys 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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