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903REVIEW: "Consent of the Networked", Rebecca MacKinnon

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Han
    Jun 4 6:05 PM
      BKCNSNTW.RVW 20121205

      "Consent of the Networked", Rebecca MacKinnon, 2012,
      978-0-465-02442-1, U$26.99/C$30.00
      %A Rebecca MacKinnon
      %C 387 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016-8810
      %D 2012
      %G 978-0-465-02442-1 0-465-02442-1
      %I Basic Books
      %O U$26.99/C$30.00 special.markets@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465024421/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465024421/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience n Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 294 p.
      %T "Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet

      In neither the preface nor the introduction is there a clear statement
      of the intent of this work. The closest comes buried towards the end
      of the introduction, in a sentence which states "This book is about
      the new realities of power, freedom, and control in the Internet Age."
      Alongside other assertions in the opening segments, one can surmise
      that MacKinnon is trying to point out the complexities of the use, by
      countries or corporations, of technologies which enhance either
      democracy or control, and the desirability of a vague concept which
      she refers to as "Internet Freedom."

      Readers may think I am opposed to the author's ideas. That is not the
      case. However, it is very difficult to critique a text, and suggest
      whether it is good or bad, when there is no clear statement of intent,
      thesis, or terminology.

      Part one is entitled "Disruptions." Chapter one outlines a number of
      stories dealing with nations or companies promising freedom, but
      actually censoring or taking data without informing citizens or users.
      The "digital commons," conceptually akin to open source but somewhat
      more nebulous (the author does, in fact, confuse open source and open
      systems), is promoted in chapter two.

      Part two turns more directly to issues of control. Chapter three
      concentrates on factors the Republic of China uses to strengthen state
      censorship. Variations on this theme are mentioned in chapter four.

      Part three examines challenges to democracy. Chapter five lists
      recent US laws and decisions related to surveillance and repression of
      speech. The tricky issue of making a distinction between repression
      of offensive speech on the one hand, and censorship on the other, is
      discussed in chapter six. The argument made about strengthening
      censorship by taking actions against intellectual property
      infringement, in chapter seven, is weak, and particularly in light of
      more recent events.

      Part four emphasizes the role that corporations play in aiding
      national censorship and surveillance activities. Chapter eight starts
      with some instances of corporations aiding censorship, but devolves
      into a review of companies opposed to "network neutrality."
      Similarly, chapter nine notes corporations aiding surveillance.
      Facebook and Google are big, states chapter ten, but the evil done in
      stories given does not inherently relate to size.

      Part five asks what is to be done. Trust but verify, says
      (ironically) chapter eleven: hold companies accountable. MacKinnon
      mentions that this may be difficult. Chapter twelve asks for an
      Internet Freedom Policy, but, since the author admits the term can
      have multiple meanings, the discussion is fuzzy. Global Information
      Governance is a topic that makes chapter thirteen apposite in terms of
      the current ITU (International Telecommunications Union) summit, but
      the focus in the book is on the ICANN (Internet Committee on Assigned
      Names and Numbers) top level domain sale scandals. The concluding
      chapter fourteen, on building a netizen-centric Internet is not just
      fuzzy, but full of warm fuzzies.

      There are a great many interesting news reports, stories, and
      anecdotes in the book. There is a great deal of passion, but not much
      structure. This can make it difficult to follow topical threads.
      This book really adds very little to the debates on these topics.

      copyright, Robert M. Slade 2013 BKCNSNTW.RVW 20121205

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