REVIEW: "Consent of the Networked", Rebecca MacKinnon
- BKCNSNTW.RVW 20121205
"Consent of the Networked", Rebecca MacKinnon, 2012,
%A Rebecca MacKinnon
%C 387 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016-8810
%G 978-0-465-02442-1 0-465-02442-1
%I Basic Books
%O U$26.99/C$30.00 special.markets@...
%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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