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. It is time 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. In her timely book, Rebecca MacKinnon warns that a convergence of unchecked government actions and unaccountable company practices is threatening the future of democracy and human rights around the world. Consent of the Networked is a call to action: 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. 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.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, MacKinnon worked as a journalist for CNN in Beijing for nine years and was Beijing Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 1998-2001, then served as CNN’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 2001-03. From 2004-06 she was a Research Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where she began her ongoing research and writing about the Chinese Internet in addition to launching Global Voices with colleague Ethan Zuckerman. In 2007-08 she taught online journalism at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. In 2009 she conducted research and writing as an Open Society Fellow, and in the Spring of 2010 she was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Center or Information Technology Policy. MacKinnon received her AB magna cum laude from Harvard College and was a Fullbright scholar in Taiwan in 1991-92.