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Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  505 ratings  ·  43 reviews
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 expos ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Andreas Jungherr
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Christopher Myrick
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jun 29, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2013-14
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 co
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 wit ...more
Jade Haydock
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
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 o ...more
Natasha Haynes
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jeffrey Dill
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Missy J
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 some ...more
Mindy McAdams
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who uses the Internet
Shelves: by-women, nonfiction
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 ed
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Virginia Bryant
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Wessel van Rensburg
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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 exp ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Chad Kohalyk
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, working
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 ...more
Miguel Silva
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
Jeffrey Hart
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 partici ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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 clai ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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-al ...more
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
May 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Nick Soapdish
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Zara Rahman
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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!
Tessa Ramos
Apr 23, 2021 rated it it was ok
Well researched, but terribly formatted. Too much information jammed into a small book with tiny print.
May 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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. ...more
May 25, 2012 marked it as on-hiatus
I tend to prefer fiction so it's taking me a while to get through this non-fiction book. It's still on my currently reading list; however, I'm not currently reading it :) Hopefully, I'll get back to it when I'm in the right head space. ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm trying to add some non-fiction to my reading diet and picked this one off the new books shelf. I think I understand the problems better, but I'm not sure what I need to do as part of the solution. Perhaps just keep my head down and subvert the dominant paradigm. ...more
Mal Watlington
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Rebecca knows what she is talking about. For those of us who came to know her during her time as a Berkman Fellow, her insights on the people who have disproportionate influence in our wired world should come as no surprise.

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