Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom


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. In Consent of the Networked, journalist and Internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it is time to fight for our rights before they are sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. Every ...
See more details below
Paperback (First Trade Paper Edition)
$14.60 price
(Save 14%)$16.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (23) from $2.91   
  • New (11) from $9.07   
  • Used (12) from $2.91   
Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49 price
(Save 38%)$16.99 List Price


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. In Consent of the Networked, journalist and Internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it is time to fight for our rights before they are sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. Every day, the corporate sovereigns of cyberspace (Google and Facebook, among others) make decisions that affect our physical freedom—but without our consent. Yet the traditional solution to unaccountable corporate behavior—government regulation—cannot stop the abuse of digital power on its own, and sometimes even contributes to it.

A clarion call to action, Consent of the Networked shows that it is time to stop arguing over whether the Internet empowers people, and address the urgent question of how technology should be governed to support the rights and liberties of users around the world.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic
“For nearly a decade, Rebecca MacKinnon has been at the center of evolving debates about how the Internet will affect democracy, privacy, individual liberties, and the other values free societies want to defend. Here she makes a persuasive and important case that, as with other technological revolutions through history, the effects of today’s new communications systems, for human liberation or for oppression, will depend not on the technologies themselves but rather on the resolve of citizens to shape the way in which they are used.”

Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
Consent of the Networked will become the seminal book firmly establishing the responsibility of those who control the architecture and the politics of the network to the citizens who inhabit our new digital world. Consent of the Networked should be required reading for all of those involved in building our networked future as well as those who live in it.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
Consent of the Networked is a must-read for anyone interested in freedom of personal and political expression in the 21st century. It’s accessible, engaging, and periodically hair-raising. It should have the same impact on public awareness of the vital issues surrounding Internet freedom that ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ had with regard to climate change.”

Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and President of Ireland
“The Internet poses the most complex challenges and opportunities for human rights to have emerged over the last decade. Rebecca MacKinnon’s book is a clear-eyed guide through that complexity.”

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Future of Power
“Cyber power and governance of the internet is one of the great unsolved problems of the 21st century. Rebecca MacKinnon has written a wonderfully lively and illuminating account of the issues we face in this contentious area. It is well worth reading.”

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
“A growing number of people throughout the world are counting on the Internet to move their countries in a more democratic direction. Consent of the Networked describes what’s happening, successes and failures, what’s next, and what needs to be done. It’s the real deal.”

Kirkus Reviews
“An incisive overview of the global struggle for Internet freedom.... In her wide-ranging book, MacKinnon details the many ways in which governments, corporations and others are using the Internet—from empowering people to helping authoritarian dictators survive.”

“A vitally important analysis of Internet manipulation that should be read by anyone relying on the web for work or pleasure.”

Mother Jones
“[A] sharp, sobering rebuttal [to] heady rhetoric, questioning and complicating our understandings of what it means to be free online. MacKinnon’s book presents a cogent picture of the many ways in which our lives, both online and off, are increasingly affected by regulators, politicians, and companies seeking to carve territories into the still-amorphous web....  [T]he book’s intention isn’t to offer up a set of neat solutions, but to spur all of us to pay more attention to the threats lurking beneath the web’s shiny baubles, and to exhort us to take a more active role in claiming and defending our digital power, rights, and freedoms. In that, Consent of the Networked succeeds admirably; it should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of the web—that is, for all of us.”

Micah L. Sifriy,
“Count me among those who are thoroughly convinced by MacKinnon’s reporting and arguments.... In many ways, MacKinnon’s book is the one Evgeny Morozov should have written, if he was more interested in building a sensible movement for Internet freedom rather than conducting scorched-earth warfare against people who believe the Internet can help strengthen democratic culture.... While Consent of the Networked offers netizens a workable roadmap to a real vision of internet freedom, the people who should most read this book aren’t the already aware, but folks—especially policy-makers—who see all the shiny devices and trendy social media and foolishly assume that the Internet will ultimately prevail. It might, but only if we understand what a lucky and unusual accident the Internet really is, and that to keep it open and free, we have to fight for it.”

Washington Times
“Insightful and moving.... Ms. MacKinnon’s stories of the effort occurring worldwide as people harness the Internet, often with a political, socioeconomic or religious motivation, are discerning, harrowing and empowering. From Egypt’s record of torturing and jailing bloggers, China’s system of corporate-level censorship and South Korea’s strict requirements for real identification for online users, Ms. MacKinnon repeatedly strikes the appropriate balance between a technological discussion of the Net and the significance of human rights.... Packed with thorough and impeccable research and persuasive, eye-opening anecdotes from around the world, Consent of the Networked should spearhead a robust debate and join the handful of other books that successfully guide the reader through the land mines surrounding responsible use of the Internet.”

Boston Globe
“Internet policy maven Rebecca MacKinnon warns in an important new book… that the liberating power of digital technology is under threat from corporations and governments alike.... [MacKinnon] argues that neither political action nor competitive pressure spawned by the free market will protect our rights, finally making a strong case for a third way—a nongovernmental watchdog with sufficient clout to preserve freedom on the Internet.”

New York Journal of Books
“Ms. MacKinnon provides expert reporting and analysis of Internet censorship and acts against individuals by authoritarian regimes around the world including China, Iran, and Egypt, among others. Communication doesn’t move in a straight line, and more often than not, it occurs outside the lines of what we many people like.... [If] you are a Google user and don’t understand their recently updated privacy policy, and are tired of trying to puzzle it out, then Consent of the Networked is for you.”

Wall Street Journal
“[M]any thinkers on the information-wants-to-be-free side of the debate present the same binary choice, seeing almost any state control of the Internet, or any government attempt to protect intellectual property, or even the attempts of private social networks to get people to log in with their real names, as affronts to democracy comparable with the worst excesses of repressive regimes. Luckily, Ms. MacKinnon’s analysis is more nuanced and balanced than that, and Consent of the Networked is an excellent survey of the Internet’s major fault lines.”

Observer (UK)
“In her grand sweep of ‘the worldwide struggle for internet freedom’, Rebecca MacKinnon alights on the many dilemmas facing policy makers and corporate chiefs, and the many threats that cyberspace poses for individual liberty....  Thoroughly researched by one of the experts in the field, the book straddles the line between an academic and general audience. Mac Kinnon entreats internet users to see themselves as active citizens—not consumers or eyeballs. She harks back to Huxley’s Brave New World… [and] ends with a rallying cry.”

L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal
“‘Consent of the Networked’ describes how important it’s been for the Internet to develop outside of multinational organizations, with technology companies, engineering associations and civil society groups having as much influence as governments.... Applying the political-science notion of a social contract to the Web for ‘consent of the networked’ is a novel approach. It recognizes that the Web is global, with an inherent ideology in favor of more transparency and greater access to information.”

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“It is an absolutely indispensable account of the way that technology both serves freedom and removes it. MacKinnon is co-founder of the Global Voices project, and a director of the Global Network Initiative, and is one of the best-informed, clearest commentators on issues of networks and freedom from a truly global perspective. MacKinnon does a fantastic job of tying her theory and analysis to real-world stories.”

Guardian (UK)
“This timely, scholarly survey of global offences against ‘freedom’ on the internet also points out that Facebook, Google and the like supply ‘corporate’ rather than ‘public’ spaces, whose users are subject to the unsophisticated moral diktats of their owners.”

Pop Matters
“Fluent in Mandarin, MacKinnon spent nearly a decade as a CNN correspondent in Beijing, including several years as the bureau chief.... Her insight into how Western perception of the state of the Internet in China differs from the true situation on the ground is invaluable.”

Foreign Policy in Focus
“Internet policy-making is fraught with contradiction, corruption, and colonialism. In Consent of the Networked, Rebecca MacKinnon has produced an incredibly well-researched account of these dilemmas, which is as deep as it is vast. She uses case studies from around the globe, illuminates essential human rights issues, and names key stakeholders and their positions.”

Publishers Weekly
A global Internet policy advocate, MacKinnon argues in this fascinating and provocative book that it’s time to stop debating whether the Internet is an effective tool for political expression and to move on to the much more urgent question of how digital technology can be structured, governed, and used to maximize the good it can do in the world and minimize the evil. The first step in such a process involves building broader public awareness and participation; individuals must stop thinking of themselves as passive consumers of the Internet and start acting like citizens of the Internet, or “netizens.” Some activists have urged that individuals should build their own networked intellectual commons rather than relying on the Internet. In 2011, Access Now, an Internet freedom advocacy group, drafted the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, advocating 10 principles, ranging from universality and equality, accessibility, and rights and social justice to diversity and network equality. Embracing this document, MacKinnon forcefully and passionately urges us to stake out our Internet rights before governments or corporations completely take those rights away from us. (Feb.)
A vitally important analysis of Internet manipulation that should be read by anyone relying on the web for work or pleasure.
Library Journal
MacKinnon's (Bernard L. Schwartz fellow, New America Fdn.) persuasive book clearly describes the mechanisms—both technical and political—that governments and corporations use to curtail citizen's rights in the United States and around the world. She uses many real-life examples and anecdotes to illustrate the complex web of policy and technical infrastructure that allows governments and corporate interests to censor, surveil, and otherwise impede free expression and individual liberty. These encroachments on individual liberty are happening in a space where average people tend to think of themselves as passive users rather than active citizens. MacKinnon argues for citizens to empower themselves against these repressive forces by demanding that software companies and others shaping the technological landscape be held accountable. VERDICT MacKinnon's book is required reading for anyone interested in global information policy. Both lay and academic readers will enjoy her clear prose and methodical approach. Anecdotes and real-life applications make the book accessible without sacrificing depth and insight. An important, timely, and persuasive rallying cry.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll., OR
Kirkus Reviews
An incisive overview of the global struggle for Internet freedom. MacKinnon, a former CNN journalist in Beijing and now online-policy guru at the New America Foundation, warns of the threats to online free expression and assembly at a time when our political lives are highly dependent on digital services and platforms largely owned by the private sector. The corporations and governments that govern cyberspace ("sovereigns operating without the consent of the networked"), she writes, are not being held sufficiently accountable. In her wide-ranging book, MacKinnon details the many ways in which governments, corporations and others are using the Internet--from empowering people to helping authoritarian dictators survive. In China in 2009, online citizen protests forced the government to drop murder charges against a waitress who inadvertently killed a Party official while fighting off his sexual advances. But the Internet also serves as a means of political control for the Chinese government, whose complex censorship system is able to distort the information on issues and events reaching people, including educated elites. Although China is the most advanced case, other authoritarian regimes take similar advantage of their power over private networks and platforms. In the United States, writes the author, present laws and policies make it "vastly easier for government agencies to track and access citizens' private digital communications than it is for authorities to search or carry out surveillance of our physical homes, offices, vehicles, and mail." With all governments now using technology to defend their interests, it is time to develop innovative ways to hold companies accountable for business, software and engineering choices. The author describes the hopeful emergence of a decentralized "transnational movement to defend and expand Internet freedom," which might eventually shift the balance of power. At the same time, individuals must raise their awareness of online-freedom issues, becoming citizens of the Internet--"netizens"--rather than passive users. An informed call to action by the "networked" to protect their rights.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465063758
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/23/2013
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 795,708
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca MacKinnon works on global internet policy as a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. She is co-founder of Global Voices Online, a global citizen media network that amplifies online citizen voices from around the world. She is also on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and worked for CNN in Beijing for nine years. Recently, she was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. MacKinnon is frequently interviewed by major media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times, National Public Radio, BBC, and other news outlets. She lives in Washington, DC.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Paperback Edition
Introduction: After the Revolution


1. Consent and Sovereignty
Corporate Superpowers

2. Rise of the Digital Commons
The Technical Commons
Balance of Power


3. Networked Authoritarianism
How China’s Censorship Works
Authoritarian Deliberation
Western Fantasies Versus Reality

4. Variants and Permutations
“Constitutional” Technology
Corporate Collaboration
Divide and Conquer
Digital Bonapartism


5. Eroding Accountability
WikiLeaks and the Fate of Controversial Speech

6. Democratic Censorship
Intentions Versus Consequences
Saving the Children

7. Copywars
Shunning Due Process
Aiding Authoritarianism


8. Corporate Censorship
Net Neutrality
Mobile Complications
Big Brother Apple

9. Do No Evil
Chinese Lessons
Flickr Fail
Buzz Bust
Privacy and Facebook

10. Facebookistan and Googledom
Double Edge
Inside the Leviathan
Google Governance


11. Trust, but Verify
The Regulation Problem
Shared Value
The Global Network Initiative
Lessons from Other Industries

12. In Search of “Internet Freedom” Policy
Washington Squabbles
Goals and Methods
Democratic Discord
Civil Society Pushes Back

13. Global Internet Governance
The United Nations Problem
ICANN—Can You?

14. Building a Netizen-Centric Internet
Strengthening the Netizen Commons
Expanding the Technical Commons
Utopianism Versus Reality
Getting Political
Corporate Transparency and Netizen Engagement
Personal Responsibility

Afterword to the Paperback Edition

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2012

    good read

    This book has opened my eyes to many things that are hindering the liberation of the web.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)