I just finished reading the book “Consent of the Networked” by Rebecca MacKinnon. I have followed Rebecca on Twitter for more than a year and find her extremely articulate about issues surrounding governance of the Internet including its openness, net neutrality, online privacy, and online censorship.
Below is what Wikipedia has to say about her:
Rebecca MacKinnon is a former CNN journalist who headed the CNN bureaus in Beijing and later in Tokyo, before leaving television to become a blogger and co-founder of Global Voices Online. She is on the Board of Directors of the Global Network Initiative and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is currently with the New America Foundation as a Bernard L. Schwartz fellow.
I am not going to get into a lengthy review of this book. Much of the book highlights the growing danger of allowing nation states (not just authoritarian states but also Western liberal democratic states) and private corporations control the architecture and governance of the Internet on behalf of a transnational user-base who call themselves netizens. The book warns that a convergence of unchecked government actions and unaccountable company practices threatens the future of democracy and human rights around the world.
The recommendations in the book go beyond setting up alternate nonprofit networks, web services, and content to counter the control that private corporations currently exercise. It in fact very convincingly presents the limitations of setting up an alternate network with its own infrastructure and content. (Imagine setting up a Wikipedia-like not-for-profit social networking tool to counter corporate-controlled services like Facebook and Twitter.) The for-profit sector will continue to deliver useful goods and services that people will need and use and will boycotting of their products in number large enough to make a difference is neither feasible nor wise. It argues instead for greater netizen activism to pressure governments and private corporations to instill better behavior among them to ensure privacy, net neutrality and prevent arbitrary censorship not just in one country but throughout the world. The inspiration for many of these ideas seem to come from the civil society activism around corporate social responsibility.
It was a good read; highly recommended.