Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom
A global struggle for control of the Internet is now underway. At stake are no less than civil liberties, privacy, and even the character of democracy in the 21st century.
Many commentators have debated whether the Internet is ultimately a force for freedom of expression and political liberation, or for alienation, and repression. Rebecca MacKinnon, author of the new book Consent of the Networked, moves the debate about the Internet’s political impact to a new level. It is time, she says, to stop arguing over whether the Internet empowers individuals and societies, and address the more fundamental and urgent question of how technology should be structured and governed to support the rights and liberties of all the world’s Internet users.
Drawing upon two decades of experience as an international journalist, co-founder of the citizen media network Global Voices, Chinese Internet censorship expert, and Internet freedom activist, MacKinnon offers a framework for concerned citizens to understand the complex and often hidden power dynamics amongst governments, corporations, and citizens in cyberspace. She warns that a convergence of unchecked government actions and unaccountable company practices threatens the future of democracy and human rights around the world.
Our freedom in the Internet age depends on whether we defend our rights on digital platforms and networks in the same way that people fight for their rights and accountable governance in physical communities and nations, claims MacKinnon. It is time to stop thinking of ourselves as passive “users” of technology and instead act like citizens of the Internet — as netizens — and take ownership and responsibility for our digital future.
Rebecca MacKinnon works on global Internet policy as a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is co-founder of Global Voices, a citizen media network, and has held fellowships at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She is on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and worked for 12 years as a journalist in Asia, including as CNN’s Bureau Chief in Tokyo and Beijing. She now lives in Washington, D.C.
MacKinnon is the author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, published in January 2012 by Basic Books.
—Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist