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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom

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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.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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Rebecca MacKinnon

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
3,785 reviews94 followers
August 9, 2012
It's not surprising that some of this book is already dated, or that additional examples of how we, the networked, are giving over consent to the ISPs and companies. It's also not surprising that Ms. MacKinnon, a reporter formerly based in China, would go into much detail about how the Chinese regime controls the network and access. The result, however, is a book that is starting to feel a little dated (nothing about Google's new "one policy/one login serves all" policy or about Salman Rushdie's Facebook fight to be known by that name as opposed to his "real" name) and where the reader may wonder about how countries other than those in the Middle East, America or China are dealing with some of these issues. A more concrete plan or suggestions on how we can help form and affect policy would also have been helpful.

Once you get past those problems, however, this is a good snapshot of how our desire to be networked and to communicate with friends, colleagues and strangers via all the social media tools (and old-fashioned tools like e-mail) has been affected by our government's censorship and the corporate leadership at places like Cisco, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. I did wonder how (if) Facebook will change as Mark Zuckerberg ages and has children, or if anyone has pressured him to be in a room with some of the people who are most at risk thanks to the "use your real name" transparency push.

This is the sort of book that should be excerpted as required reading for high school students, to help them start to think about the implications of how and where they're interacting with others on-line. It also works as a way to show teacher and professors why these tools are such powerful primary sources when dealing with current events, in addition to being a cautionary tale about power elites and their control of the masses.
Profile Image for Socraticgadfly.
1,045 reviews337 followers
March 2, 2012
In the era of SOPA, PIPA, warrantless wiretapping, for-profit social media sites and more, this is a must-read book.

In the U.S., Europe, China, Iran and elsewhere, Rebecca MacKinnon tackles issues that boi down to the need for an "Internet bill of rights," sometimes vis-a-vis big government, and sometimes vis-a-vis big business. She also notes some of the conundrums this involves, like big government trying to regulate big business, western Internet-related companies selling equipment (Cisco and routers a classic example) to repressive government, Internet platforms cozying up to said governments and more.

The bottom line is, as MacKinnon makes clear, even if answers aren't easy, we need answers. We need them in specific legal and regulatory form. And we need them soon.
Profile Image for Christopher Myrick.
64 reviews7 followers
February 28, 2012
Well done and extensive. MacKinnon hits all of the key issues and locales: China, Washington D.C., the streets of the Arab spring. This is very much much a piece of advocacy journalism (and one I'm on side with) but also nuanced and fair about the strategic and policy challenges facing corporations, NGOs, activists and democratic governments. A great and look at a rapidly evolving issue
Profile Image for Andreas Jungherr.
58 reviews8 followers
March 6, 2012
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.
3 reviews
March 11, 2023
fascinating read about netizen advocacy

Given the impact the digital world has on our lives, the author makes the argument that we should all place just as much importance on internet freedom and internet civil rights as we do on freedom and civil rights in the physical world.
1 review
December 8, 2021
The book stated internet freedom around the world and how the roles of government, companies, and citizens play in shaping the future. In the beginning of the book, author Rebecca talk about the internet and social media play some role in Arab Spring. The Consent of the Networked by Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it is time for us to start fighting for our rights before the programmed, engineered, and legislated taking away all the internets. We must take internet rights before the government takes away from us and start acting on it.

Government is responsible for suppression of the companies that manage internet communication. This book talks about the relationship between the internet and government in China, Washington, DC, and other locations. The laws being passed by the government are affecting the citizens in that country. When the bill passes to congress, Americans must vote and if they would vote, things would not get better. They do not care whether Indonesians are hurt by the law they passed cause they only care about their own constituents.

People use globally interconnected work called Facebook, a platform, to challenge their government in a way that was exciting. Citizens are concerned more directly with the companies more often because one of the problems with problems with regulations. Google or other types of sources. The government passes laws and influence people who have no control over what they do and a company in one country. The people might not be able to do anything about what the government is doing but they might be able to engage with the company that interfaces with that government.

Important about the digital commons are google has been incredibly supportive of in term of open-source software and open-source communities and free content communities or content sharing communities. For all the people who produce both standard as well as content on the web who doing for reason for other financial motive. Without the robust community, not only the internet, but it would also be much harder for society to do what they do today on the internet.

It is important to me as readers is that we use the internet as our daily life, and it helps us to learn new things in this world. But if the government does not support that but intends to create a difference then it creates an issue among both sides. Internets gives many reliable information everyone can have technical education and process of using social media. We can ensure that the internet provides the best services for citizens. For example, if they need to find information about history and are hard to find in a library, using internet s well easier than taking time to search for it.
935 reviews7 followers
June 29, 2020
Consent of the Networked

The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom

Rebecca MacKinnon

"Netizen" A citizen of the internet

"Hacktivist" When the Egyptian government shut down the Internet on January 27, 2011, a worldwide community of activist programmers and engineers "hacktivists" sprang into action. Internet and mobile service providers in Egypt were down, but as long as there were phone and fax machines capable of making and receiving international calls, there were still ways for Egyptians to connect to the Internet.

So this book is a great read. It looks and discusses the global level of internet freedoms and securities as well as the rights of US citizens as they are sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. The complex relationship with mostly American born internet service providers operating in foreign countries under their laws. China blocks many popular American sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress Blog. It is easier for the Chinese Government to control user posts with Chinese sites and increase users by population alone. This in turn appeals to foreign stock investors who know Chinese Sites will be worth more money.

While recent laws in the US have compromised privacy and security of citizens such as hastily passed Patriot Act, there are other security risks brought on by company devises and consumer naïveté. While passwords are protected, they are not user specific. The new IPhone 5 has a fingerprint option that is specific to users and can NEVER be replaced. If leaked-and things get leaked that information could have irreversible damage to regular Joe data user.

Where does this leave CTEP members? We teach on internet security to students, especially in the Northstar e-mail and internet use. We use popular programs to promote CTEP and interact with our cohorts. The internet freedom advocacy group Access Now published a summary of the Charter's ten core principals.

1. University and Equality. 2.Rights and Social Justice. 3. Accessibility. 4. Expression and Association. 5. Privacy and Data Protection. 6. Life, Liberty, and Security. 7. Diversity. 8. Network Equality. 8. Standards and Regulation. 10. Governance.

This code reminds me a lot of the AmeriCorps Pledge.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,591 reviews95 followers
July 20, 2017
A couple of weeks ago I read Who Controls the Internet, which covered in part nation-states’ role in reasserting national boundaries in cyberspace. Consent of the Networked examines threats to the open internet, both from states and corporations. The threats are not always overt, like the Chinese state apparatus that keeps the Chinese internet connected to the global net only through a half-dozen filtered gateways, or the common suppression of social networks in times of social unrest, as we witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt during their respective revolutions, and in Iran during the controversial reelection of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The author also examines more indirect threats to an open internet; the irresponsible privacy policies at Facebook, for instance, which issue updates that change privacy settings without giving appropriate forewarning. In some countries, a policy update that exposes bloggers, tweeters, etc’s real identities can lead to imprisonment or worse. Other threats include the end of Net Neutrality, an end which might channel people into using particular social networks. If those networks are as cavalier about user info as places like Yahoo and Facebook have been, activists and others could be compromised all too easily. MacKinnon also sees overly-aggressive attempts by companies to protect their intellectual property as a threat to free expression.

Intriguingly, MacKannon does not demonize solely the private sector or the public; both have compromised people, and the free democracies have few bragging rights: just recently, the United States and United Kingdom were both named as ‘enemies of the Internet’ for their intensive surveillance. (Sometimes public and private work together, as when Cisco became a partner to China in its firewall enterprise, and Yahoo thoughtlessly handed over user info when requested…again, by China.) MacKinnon isn’t particularly enthusiastic about the United Nations, either, but holds that international agreements are a necessary road forward given the internet’s global nature. While the only surprise here for me was the degree of European governments' internet surveillance and strictures. Given their constant run-ins with Google over privacy, I'd had the impression they were better about safeguarding private internet security than the U.S.
Profile Image for Jade Haydock.
27 reviews
January 12, 2018
This was a great primer on some of the issues surrounding digital rights and freedom, and I enjoyed reading it. I feel a bit mean giving it three stars- hence a review that I would not normally write. My reasoning is that there have been so many technological, social and political changes since the book was written that a lot of the details are no longer accurate/reliable. The book helped to frame my thinking around the subject matter - especially from non-western perspectives - but I was kind of aware throughout that I was not getting a good sense of the current status of these issues. I’m glad to have read it, anyway.
Profile Image for Chris Ramirez.
80 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2022
This book reads like it's written by an academia. Whatever it lacks in things like character and suspense it surely makes up for in WTF moments about things you never thought about with respect to the online world. After reading it, I'm not so sure there is a solution for all the problems the author mentions. This was written around 2010 and I would be curious if the author ever imagined how much more power these places have now and how much people have abused their own freedom online in the name of "free speech."
Profile Image for Natasha Haynes.
10 reviews
November 13, 2018
For a single book to embody the thing that allows so much of this era to have knowledge at the touch of its hands is a ...mouthful. With well written streamed facts and honesty, and an attempt to stay clear of opinion, this book does a fine job of encapsulating the politics of internet.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Dill.
238 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2017
Enlightening and important for any participant in the Internet revolution - i.e. every single person in the developed world on the face of the Earth.
Profile Image for Missy J.
573 reviews87 followers
March 18, 2021
Many reviewers on Goodreads have already pointed out that a lot of the content in this book is already outdated given the ever changing nature of the internet. However, as stated above, we really do take the internet for granted. How many internet users are aware of their "digital rights," or even fight for those rights? How many internet users actually read the "Terms of Agreements" when signing up to Twitter, Facebook, Gmail or Goodreads? How many internet users think about whether or not someone is keeping track of their search engine? How many internet users are aware of the corporate companies that are behind the tools we use? In fact, how many people could truly explain how the internet works?

So in this book, the author writes extensively about the digital platform and "internet freedom." The author argues that our rights on the internet need to be defended and that we shouldn't allow corporations to collude with governments to violate our freedom and rights simply so that they can make profit and gain control to the max. We should be able to hold them accountable if we want to defend our freedom. Having lived in China, the author draws a lot of examples from there in addition to North Africa and Iran. She doesn't just show stories of activists in authoritarian countries, who make use of the internet to spread information in their country and topple dictators, but also sheds light to activists and data that were given away by internet companies to authoritarian regimes, which has resulted in their imprisonments. The digital world is truly murky.

Instead of arguing whether or not the internet is good for democracy and freedom of speech, the author proposes that we instead think about how to defend our rights and freedom of speech in the best way possible and hold companies and governments accountable if our rights are infringed. A lot of what the author talks about ties in with democracy, laws and the relationships between internet companies and the government. Unfortunately if democracy cannot be implemented in real life, how are we to expect it to work in the digital realm? The author herself states that common ground needs to be found across the globe in regards to "internet freedom," but she doesn't provide any concrete ideas on how to achieve that. Overall, a very depressing book, that I kept avoiding even though it wasn't too long (a lot of references in the back of the book). So much about the digital world is invisible. Most of us don't even give a thought about it, which is scary! Good luck everybody!
Profile Image for Mindy McAdams.
493 reviews31 followers
December 4, 2013
Revelations from the documents leaked by Edward Snowden have made a lot of people aware of digital surveillance. Our mobile phone records are stored long-term in searchable databases. Our Internet searching and browsing activities are analyzed and used to send targeted ads to us. Nothing we do on Facebook is private.

Yet many of us shrug our shoulders to this, saying it doesn't matter if we ourselves are not doing anything illegal.

In this book, published in 2011 and updated for the paperback edition at the end of 2012, author Rebecca MacKinnon pulls back the curtain and tells us about how surveillance, a lack of privacy protection, misuse of copyright protection laws, and pretty much a general disregard for anyone's rights to free expression effect regular, non-criminal people in all kinds of situations. Americans have been affected, sometimes with dire results. But even more concerning are the results of these conditions on people fighting for their rights in non-democratic countries such as China, Russia, and Iran, and in the Arab World.

This book is about the Internet and how it serves as a platform for free expression and human rights. Laws that purport to punish "pirates" online are often used to punish activists who offend their authoritarian governments. U.S. companies that seem benign to Americans are actually profiting handsomely by selling surveillance technologies to repressive countries.

I used this book as a text for undergraduates in a university course, and most of the students said most of the information in the book was completely new to them. Of course they have heard of Snowden and the Arab Spring, but they didn't know how Facebook's anti-privacy policies have hurt activists in other countries or how takedown rules for ISPs affect far more than illegal file sharing.

This is a straightforward, easy-to-read book with a lot of interesting cases that show how human rights are at risk and dependent on corporate actions, government policies, and global trade agreements -- as well as on personal choices each one of us must make.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 7 books21 followers
February 3, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Virginia Bryant.
99 reviews
June 3, 2012
again, not a "review" (who cares what i think anyway- ha!) rather i will list some notes from the book,
which is about one of the major issues of our time,
a time in which the web has become the closest thing to a functioning public square that we have.
and so worth time and research toundrstand.

"The Filter Bubble" by Eli Pariser
"The Googlization of Everything", Siva Vaidhyanathan
"the Future of Power", Joseph Nye

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires" , Tim Wu
Drumbeat-platform for keeping the internet open and free. "The point of the Drumbeat movement is that the web will be free and open only if people participate actively in making it so."
Global Voices Advocacy & The Tactical Technology Collective, & Mobile Active, We Rebuild, New American Foundations' Open Technology Initiative
Commotion Wireless, -software programcalled Serval, which enables creations of ad hoc independent cell phone networks when "normal" networks are switched off (used in Egypt)
Profile Image for Wessel van Rensburg.
31 reviews23 followers
November 30, 2013
This is a wide ranging survey of the myriad issues facing the free flow of information in a networked world. It includes numerous examples of threats from democracies, autocracies and corporate boardrooms. (Intriguing is the concept of China's networked authoritarianism). It looks at how copyright can and is used to stifle free speech. It looks at the problem of sovereignty on a global internet. It looks into what ethical responsibilities of companies like Google, Yahoo and Twitter have, and explains how powerful these companies have become. And it argues for a realistic political tack from activists (ie, dont expect everybody to to give up on Facebook - rather put pressure on the company to implement sensible policies). If you are not into politics it might feel dull at times, especially when it delves into global regulatory systems and how the internet is governed. It does deal with political theory, but its not big ideas book. It's a great survey of the lay of the current land with respect to net freedom, and great preparation for battles to come.
302 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2012
The author does an excellent job describing the intricacies and complexities of the internet as it impacts the quality of life for people all over the world. It made me aware of the power players in this new frontier - political entities and mega businesses, and the tension between each one serving their own self-interest as compared to what is good for humanity. I am grateful for the watchdogs who expose the manipulations in controlling information and demand ethical applications as they create awareness in the casual users. Consent of the Networked provides example after example of what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and brings up questions as to where this could and should all go. Cyber power crosses all political, religious and demo-graphical boundaries making it of vital importance to everyone!
Profile Image for Chad Kohalyk.
285 reviews27 followers
December 31, 2013
I have owned this book for more than a year, and now that I have finally read it I have to say it was pretty boring. Wait! I am not saying it is a bad book, not by any means! Overall it is excellent and a must read for anyone interested in "internet theory". The reason it might come off as boring is that it is one of the most cited books on internet freedom. In my last year of reading I have read so many citations of MacKinnon's work that there was barely anything left! That says a lot about the importance of this book (whether you agree with its premise or not).

Full review at: http://chadkohalyk.com/blog/2013/12/3...
Profile Image for Miguel Silva.
24 reviews14 followers
February 5, 2017
It's a biased book, indeed, as any activist content should be. However, the author tries hard to put herself in other's shoes to find solutions that really respect human rights in the Internet. That's the great merit of this book. It's grown up activism to change the real world, not to destroy everything and build it again from the scratch.

Sadly, 5-6 years later, the situation about internet rights has increasingly deteriorated all over the world and many of today's issues were foreseen at that time and before.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Hart.
371 reviews5 followers
August 27, 2015
Terrific book about a wide variety of Internet related topics but with a common theme of why the Internet matters for democracy and human rights and why we cannot depend on governments and private business alone to get it right. The author argues that "netizens" have to be vigilant about preserving their digital rights. This goes beyond "net neutrality" to include greater corporate transparency (e.g. about efforts on the part of governments to restrict digital rights) and greater citizen participation in key governance structures. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Hamad.
66 reviews3 followers
June 28, 2013
MacKinnon does a good job documenting the various types of threats to freedom of and on the Internet from both governments and corporations. I especially appreciated that she did not only focus on the usual suspects like China and Iran, but also tracked the threats back to the actions of US corporations that circulate censorship products throughout the world. However, I don't agree with MacKinnon's overall politics of assimilation, and I think her analysis falls short of deeper and systemic claims that could open up questions about the changing basis of political authority today.
32 reviews2 followers
February 18, 2015
Great and easy to read overview of Internet freedom issues, and the measures that are being taken around the world to deal with them - including countering some conventional but inaccurate perceptions about what is and isn't helpful in this swiftly changing arena. How do we deal with a world where most of humanity equates "the Internet" with Facebook? What role do corporations like Facebook and Google have in securing freedom? How do we move away from the belief that Internet access is a cure-all for dealing with oppressive regimes? All questions dealt with here.
Profile Image for Kim.
68 reviews3 followers
April 6, 2014
A very teachable book that brings together many strands with which my class had already been familiar. We read it after reading about f/oss communities and after reading about how IP legislation affects innovation. The way Mackinnon connects IP legislation to civil liberties and raises questions about the potential for digital bonapartism in the U.S. got a lot of really great discussion going among my students.
Profile Image for Cale.
3,658 reviews24 followers
June 2, 2012
This is part depressing picture of the current status of human rights and privacy concerns on the internet, and part a call to arms to all current 'netizens' to take up responsibility to protect those rights. This book asks a lot of its readers, and doesn't offer any easy answers (hardly any answers at all, actually), but it does make important points that we should be aware of and concerned about. Not a fun read, but an important on.e
Profile Image for Nick Soapdish.
6 reviews2 followers
December 29, 2012
Dated already, but that's to be expected in this field.

It is still a scary wake up call for all responsible citizens of the internet.

Some reviews suggest it lacks 'answers to the tough questions'. I'd say it has a few pretty good ones, but they are 'long haul' rather than 'quick fix'.

Preaching to the choir too probably, although that's hardly a fault of the book.

Very easy to read and very interesting. Recommended.
390 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2013
The book gives a solid snapshot of online issues.

However, there are some very repetitive sections. In fact, in at least one spot, a paragraph is repeated verbatim less than 25 pages later.

Also, some of the things in here are already a bit dated. That is not a huge crime, though, considering the topic at hand.

All-together, an easy, quick read. Probably not necessary for anyone who stays up to date on such issues through the news.
Profile Image for Zara Rahman.
197 reviews79 followers
June 2, 2015
Great read - not too heavy but covering lots of important issues. I appreciated especially MacKinnon's deep knowledge of internet culture in countries outside of the US, especially in this case, China; one of my pet peeves with many books in this space is their focus on the US without mentioning the rest of the world.

Recommended for a good exploration of internet freedom issues around the world!
Profile Image for xabre.
17 reviews3 followers
November 5, 2013
A biblia da internet centrada nas persoas.

Impresionante esforzo de anàlise histórica recente, diagnóstico da situación actual, denuncia das inxustizas, recolección de propostas positivas... a Internet ao servizo das persoas e non ao servizo dos desmáns dos gobernos... é posíbel? Hai esperanza nas empresas? Moitas respostas e moitas preguntas que se abren.
Profile Image for Margaret.
281 reviews
April 6, 2013
I really wanted to like this book, and to learn from it. I'm not sure, maybe it was the writing style, but I lost interest rather quickly. Too much politics, not enough worthwhile information. Tedious in it's attempt to provide historical relevance.
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