inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #0 of 31: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 21 May 12 06:16
    
We are fortunate to have Rebecca MacKinnon with us to discuss her new
book Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet
Freedom. 

"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."

Our own Jon Lebkowsky will be leading the interview. Please join them
for what promises to be a deep and far ranging discussion about the
issues of digital life, liberty and your online pursuits.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #1 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 22 May 12 14:45
    
Rebecca, could you say a little about the work you've been doing for
the last decade or so, and how it inspired you to write this particular
book?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #2 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Thu 24 May 12 04:08
    
10 years ago I was CNN's Tokyo Bureau Chief. 11 years ago I moved to
Japan from China after living in Beijing for 9 years straight, working
for CNN. In 2004 I decided to take a break from a 12-year career with
CNN in Asia and became a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press
and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. I planned
to return to Tokyo after five or six months off, but instead I ended up
quitting my job. There were lots of reasons I won't go into here
because they have nothing to do with the book. But to make a long story
short, I became excited by and even obsessed with the idea that
journalists no longer had a monopoly on international news. Bloggers
were emerging all over the world, covering their countries and regions
with perspectives and facts that mainstream news organizations simply
weren't reporting. I ended up moving over to the Berkman Center for
Internet and Society where Ethan Zuckerman and I organized a meeting of
bloggers from around the world in late 2004, and that turned into
Global Voices Online, an international citizen media community that has
since grown organically beyond our wildest imagination at the time.

Almost immediately, we had to deal with threats that our community
members faced: not only censorship but surveillance, threats, and
sometimes even imprisonment. I watched as governments began to fight
back against online activism in a range of ways. In 2005 I also started
to do a lot of research and writing about Chinese social media and
Internet censorship, because of my Chinese language facility and
experience in China. In 2006 I wrote a report for Human Rights Watch on
the complicity of Western companies in Chinese Internet censorship.
Then in 2007 I moved to Hong Kong to teach online journalism and
continue research on Chinese social media and censorship. I did a lot
of writing in which I sought to explain to a Western audience how the
Chinese government has coopted Internet companies into doing much of
its censorship and surveillance work. Through my global work with
Global Voices and another organization called the Global Network
Initiative which tries to get Internet and telecommunications companies
to adhere to basic human rights standards, I also realized that the
cooptation of the private sector by governments to carry out censorship
and surveillance is a rapidly-spreading global trend. 

By 2008 I decided that writing articles about these issues was not
enough. I was increasingly frustrated by one-dimensional analyses and
naive thinking about the Internet and its impact on global politics by
policymakers, media, and activists.  I realized had a bigger argument I
needed to make about the geopolitical power struggles taking place
over the Internet's present and future. Non-technical people tend to
assume that the Internet's nature is a constant, not a variable. They
don't realize the extent to which what they can or cannot do online or
through their mobile phones is the result of many specific decisions by
engineers, programmers, business managers, executives, bureaucrats,
and politicians. Depending on what decisions are made going forward,
the Internet could evolve in a range of different ways, some of which
would be more compatible with freedom, civil liberties and democracies
than others. People need to better understand the various forces
shaping our digital lives so that as voters, consumers, users of
technology and investors, we can fight back against whoever might be
infringing or constraining our rights - governments or companies or
some combination of the two.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #3 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 24 May 12 06:33
    
One thing that's clear from your book is that the Internet can as
readily enable oppression as liberation. It can be a platform for a
more democratic participation in governance as well as a platform for
surveillance and control. There was much excitement about the
Internet's role in the "Arab Spring," is that excitement justified? Has
the Internet really made a difference in the Middle East?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #4 of 31: Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Thu 24 May 12 11:06
    

I'm very glad to see Rebecca here. Although we've never worked together
directly, I've found her contributions distinctly valuable in the work I
have done with Public Knowledge and with the Wikimedia Foundation. (When I
joined WMF in 2007, Rebecca was on the Advisory Board, which was exciting,
and I met her in person in Taiwan that year, as I recall.)

Welcome, Rebecca!
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #5 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 24 May 12 11:23
    
For those who want to share it, the short url for this discussion is
http://bit.ly/rmackinnon.

If you have a comment or question, and are not a member of the WELL,
you can still submit. Look at the bottom of this screen, and select the
link where it says "Non-members: Submit a comment or question."
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #6 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Thu 24 May 12 15:46
    
Thanks Mike for your kind words! I have always admired your work too
and hope we cross paths again sooner than later! 

John, to address your question, the Internet has indeed "made a
difference" in the Middle East and North Africa - as it has in every
place where a critical mass of people are using the Internet. But one
has to be clear about what "made a difference" means. I would not
equate "made a difference" necessarily with "changing the political
power structure". There are a few places where people have been
successful in using the Internet as a tool and platform for carrying
out political regime change, like Tunisia and Egypt. In other places,
like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran the Internet is having a profound
impact on society, culture, business, and even politics. But
authoritarian regimes and corrupt old-guard economic interests have 
maintained their power. I will take the liberty of quoting liberally
from something I recently wrote for an online symposium on digital
activism held by the Cato Institute (see http://www.cato-unbound.org/):


Internet connectivity and widespread social media adoption do not on
their own guarantee activism’s success. The Internet is not some sort
of automatic “freedom juice.”

Success or failure of digital activism depends on a plethora of
variables – economic, cultural, religious, commercial, political,
personal, and accidents of history. In his seminal book "The Digital
Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and
Political Islam," Philip N. Howard, a professor at the University of
Washington and expert on technology and political change in the Islamic
world, concludes that while the Internet and mobile technologies do
not cause change, change is unlikely to happen without sufficient
mobile and Internet penetration. Indeed, the two Arab countries in
which dictators were deposed without civil war in 2011 were Tunisia and
Egypt – both of which have relatively high rates of Internet
penetration and social media use compared to many other parts of the
Middle East and North Africa. However as I discuss at some length in my
book, the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt did not spring immaculately
from Twitter and Facebook. Movements for political change in these
countries developed and matured over the course of a decade; then when
the right moment came activists were in a position to take advantage of
it. Activists experimented with networked technologies, honed their
messages over time, built support networks and generally worked to use
Internet and mobile platforms to their maximum advantage. They also
spent a decade building offline relationships both nationally and
regionally and honing offline protest skills. The revolution’s success
in Tunisia and Egypt had much to do with widespread economic grievances
and anger over state corruption. 

Another factor was the relative lack of sectarian divisions in Egypt
and Tunisia as compared to other countries in the region. This
contrasts sharply with Bahrain which also boasts deep Internet
penetration and widespread social media usage, but whose society is
torn asunder by a deep sectarian divide between majority Shiites and
Sunni political elites. This divide has enabled the ruling Al Khalifa
family to suppress dissent violently and with impunity – aided by other
geopolitical factors including support from neighboring Saudi Arabia,
which considers Sunni activism on its doorstep to be a dangerous sign
of Iranian political meddling. Then there is the presence in Bahrain of
the U.S. Seventh Fleet, a geopolitical rather than a technological
reality that makes rapid political change in Bahrain all the less
likely. In Syria, Internet penetration is much more shallow and online
communities much weaker to begin with. This, combined with a sharp
sectarian divide has meant that while activists have been able to use
the Internet to get information out to the world about the Assad
regime’s atrocities against its own people, conventional geopolitics –
not new media – will be the decisive factor in deciding when and how
Assad will fall from power.

Another point I make in the book is that while the Internet was an
important factor in bringing down dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, what
role the Internet will play in building stable and successful
democracies in those countries is a lot less clear. The young
tech-savvy activists who played a key role in their countries'
revolutions for the most part failed to get elected to the transitional
assemblies in Tunisia and Egypt and are not playing an influential
role in electoral politics. In both countries substantial numbers of
elected representatives came to office on pro-censorship platforms,
appealing to conservative religious constituencies who believe that the
internet should be kept clean of "blasphemy" - as they choose to
define it. In Egypt particularly, surveillance technologies purchased
from the West (including from a California based company called Narus -
owned by Boeing -whose products are known to have helped the NSA spy
on Americans through AT&T) continue to be used by the transitional
government to track activists and non-governmental organizations. 
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #7 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 24 May 12 21:07
    
In the book, you also write about the role (and control) of the
Internet in China. How does Internet deployment and use differ in China
from the Middle East? 
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #8 of 31: David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 25 May 12 07:36
    
Rebecca

Have you been following the story about the hassidic Jews who held a
conference in NYC regarding using or banning the internet within those
communities?

There is historic precedent for that and it is just about a repeat of
the "haskala" movement when people started to introduce secular books
and influences into the closed traditional Eastern European Jewish
communities.  The arguments even appear to be the same.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #9 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Fri 25 May 12 11:06
    
Hi there David, no I haven't followed that story. Will look into it,
definitely. 
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #10 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Sat 26 May 12 10:36
    
As I describe in detail in the third chapter of my book, unlike the
governments of the Middle East and North Africa which didn't focus in
any clear way on the Internet and its political implications until much
later, the Chinese government took the Internet seriously as both a
political threat and economic opportunity from the moment commercial
Internet services came to China in the mid-1990s. The Chinese
government not only built the world’s most sophisticated system of
filtering and blocking overseas websites, including most famously most
Google-owned services, Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, the
government encouraged the development of a robust domestic Internet and
telecommunications industry so that Chinese technology users can enjoy
an abundant variety of domestically run social media platforms, online
information services, Internet and mobile platforms, and devices
produced by Chinese companies. By imposing strong political and legal
liability on Internet companies, the government forced companies – many
financed by Western capital – not only to foot the bill for much of
the regime’s censorship and surveillance needs but to do much of the
actual work. 

For more about how the system of Internet control works in China,
check out these two free excerpt from chapter 3: 

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/01/29/rebecca-mackinnon-inside-chinas
-censorship-machine/

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/01/28/rebecca-mackinnnon-chinas-netwo
rked-authoritarianism/

Online activism still does occur in China but due to multiple layers
of censorship and surveillance, activism’s successes have for the most
part been local, presenting minimal threat to the power of the central
government and Communist Party. Users of the Chinese twitter-like
social networking platform Weibo have ruined the careers of local and
provincial officials by exposing their corruption. Chinese “netizens,”
as they like to call themselves, have also called attention to specific
errors or incompetencies of specific parts of the bureaucracy, which
the central government has then moved to fix – which in many ways
boosts the central government’s power and credibility as compared to
local governments or specific ministers seeking to develop independent
power bases. To date, activists who have tried to use social media to
build national movements for systemic political change have
consistently gone to jail or been placed under house arrest, their
supporters and friends often harassed and threatened with loss of jobs
and educational opportunities even if they have not technically
committed any crime by Chinese law. The case of the blind activist Chen
Guangcheng may or may not serve as a watershed moment for Chinese
activism – it remains too early to tell. But it does, the reasons for
digital activism’s success in China will have as much to do with
offline domestic and international factors as with anything
technological: a leadership crisis at the top of the Communist Party
precipitated by the downfall of the power-hungry Chongqing Party
Secretary Bo Xilai; plus specific developments not only in the
U.S.-China diplomatic relationship but also U.S. domestic partisan
politics which Chen’s supporters have taken skillful advantage of,
using social media of course.

I recently wrote a couple articles for Foreign Policy about social
media and circumvention technologies in China, and the impact they are
having in spite of censorship: 

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/17/the_not_so_great_firewall_of_
china

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/02shawshank_prevention

For more great information about what's happening on and with the
Chinese Internet I strongly recommend the website run by my good friend
Xiao Qiang out of Berkeley. http://chinadigitaltimes.net/
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #11 of 31: Gail Williams (gail) Sun 27 May 12 14:01
    
That's fascinating. 

I remember meeting a grad student from China at MIT in the 90s, and
having a short conversation about what he was studying.  I asked him if
he was supposed to go back to try to filter out everything interesting
that was happening in the West, and he told me that although that
would be part of the work they would be doing, he expected that he and
his friends would still have access to anything.  Sheesh. They
certainly gave a visa to the right person, from their perspective.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #12 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 28 May 12 18:18
    
How have activists and businesses in the USA helped and hindered
freedom to connect globally?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #13 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Wed 30 May 12 15:17
    
First let's clarify what "freedom to connect" actually means and how
it relates to Internet freedom more broadly. "Freedom to connect" means
that people a) are free (as in speech, not as in beer) to access the
Internet and b) can access information without censorship or
manipulation. But even if networks are free, I argue in the book and
have been arguing in speeches and articles recently, people aren't free
without freedom from fear. And freedom from fear on the net is not
possible when publicly unaccountable surveillance is pervasive on the
networks people are using. For more on this argument see this article I
wrote last week for Mark News: http://tinyurl.com/c8tbnv4

Also see a talk I gave last week at David Isenberg's "Freedom to
Connect" conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeN5mx3Gglc

Here is an excerpt from my notes for the talk: 

"Freedom to Connect is not enough. Internet freedom - for humans -
doesn't just mean free networks. It means free people. It means freedom
from fear.

A genuinely free internet must include the ability to hold power
accountable - not just censorship power but also surveillance power.

In the Internet age, it is technically trivial for corporations and
governments to gain access to people's private communications and track
their movements. 

Without strong global standards of public transparency and
accountability in how surveillance technologies are deployed, and how
information is shared, the empowering potential of the Internet
diminishes quickly."
 
Now to your question about American businesses. It's a complex picture
with positives as well as negatives. As I describe in quite a lot of
detail in chapter 4 and elsewhere in the book, many American businesses
are selling copious amounts of surveillance and censorship
technologies to all kinds of regimes. Narus, owned by Boeing, which
also sold wiretapping equipment to the NSA which installed it inside
AT&T facilities, sold similar equipment to Mubarak's Egypt and around
the Middle East and North Africa. The EFF has a lot of resources about
this as well, including a white paper on what companies should do if
they care about human rights. See: 
https://www.eff.org/document/human-rights-and-technology-sales

A lot of other American (and other) companies doing business around
the world find themselves under pressure from local governments to
censor content and hand over user information on demand. This has
resulted in some companies being complicit in censorship and
surveillance. The most extreme examples emerged in China a few years
ago with Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Skype, among others. Yahoo handed
dissident information over to the Chinese police, Microsoft censored
Chinese blogs in response to phone calls from the cops. Google went
into China with a censored search engine (which it later removed in
2010). Skype was found to have allowed spyware to be installed on the
joint venture Chinese version of its software. (More on that history
here: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/08/09/race-bottom)  As a result
of what was happening, Congress started calling executives into
hearings wanting to know why they were serving as handmaidens of
repression, etc. But while the problem was most severe in China it was
clear even in 2006 when the hearings started that governments all
around the world are demanding that companies - including American
companies - comply with politically motivated "law enforcement"
demands, and that companies feel they have no choice to comply in order
to do business anywhere. To address this problem, I became involved
with the formation of an organization called the Global Network
Initiative (globalnetworkinitiative.org) which is trying to get
companies to sign on to basic human rights principles on free
expression and privacy, then work with other stakeholders including
human rights groups, socially responsible investors, and academic
researchers to figure out how to live up to these principles in
situations that are technically and politically complicated and often
not black and white at all. Two of the thorniest places for companies
these days are India and Thailand - both democracies - where
democratically elected governments have passed draconian laws holding
Internet companies liable for their users' activities, making life very
difficult for American companies that want to "do the right thing" by
their users and also not have their local employees arrested or get
kicked out of the country.

The companies that joined GNI - Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Websense,
and Evoca as full members and now Facebook and Afilias as observers
have taken an important step in recognizing that there are real human
rights dilemmas and risks to their businesses which they have to take
seriously if they are going to enhance the freedom of Internet users
around the world in a genuine and lasting way. 

Now, I assume everybody here is familiar with the recent fight to kill
the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), where we saw a joining of forces
between American Internet companies and activists against the
entertainment industry and other American companies that fall under the
category of "the copyright lobby." It is unfortunate that some
American businesses want to corrode people's freedom to connect in
order to protect their outmoded business models, and fortunate that
other American businesses are putting some serious cash and lobbying
muscle into countering them. But congress wouldn't have halted its
trajectory if it hadn't been for the grassroots activists like
Fightforthefuture.org and many others, as well as nonprofits like
Wikipedia who brought a moral force to the argument that tipped the
scales and mobilized voters to call their representatives. 

When it comes to legislation like the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and
Protection Act (CISPA) which passed the House and is on its way to the
Senate, the role of American Internet companies is a lot more
troubling. Despite concerns that this legislation lacks safeguards that
would protect Americans from unaccountable spying by the NSA and
others, many American businesses continue to support it because they
are concerned about the security of their networks and want something
to be done. They have yet to be convinced that they should only support
legislation that contains adequate civil liberties protections. Which
brings me back to the original point- achieving freedom to connect is
much easier than achieving freedom from illegitimate, unaccountable
surveillance.

Finally, there is the issue of what I call the power exercised by
Internet companies over people's identities and their privacy. This has
more to do with freedom from fear than freedom to connect. To make a
long story short, American companies like Google and Facebook do a much
better job at freedom to connect than they do at freedom from fear.
For a taste of what my book says about the lands of Facebookistan and
Googledom, see this adapted excerpt in Slate:
http://tinyurl.com/6ujz9yp 

As for activists in the USA, people are doing a tremendous amount of
good work fighting to keep our own Internet open and free, despite a
lot of political and commercial forces pushing in the opposite
direction. American activists working for Internet freedom elsewhere
around are most effective, in my view, when they start from the premise
that Internet freedom faces threats absolutely everywhere, and that
the United States is a far cry from a perfect model particularly on
issues of surveillance. Showing up with an attitude that basically says
"Hi, I'm a white night from the land of the free riding in to save
you" doesn't tend to go down well. A more effective attitude is "Hi,
I'm here in solidarity to support you in your part of the global
struggle. How can I be most helpful?" A number of times I've seen
people from Egypt, Syria and China get asked that question. Often the
answer is: "sort out your own country's contradictions so that our
governments can have better models to follow."
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #14 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 30 May 12 21:07
    
What you're describing is a complex distribution of power globally,
power held both by governments and by multinational companies, and by
combinations of the two that are often uneasy. This feels like a pot
starting to boil, in danger of boiling over. You mention GNI - what are
some other effective activist organizations working to "turn down the
heat"?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #15 of 31: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 31 May 12 08:14
    
Rebecca, can you talk about the politics of Internet governance a bit
more, as to solutions.  The UN is holding a big conference in Dubai
this December with the ITU (http://world2012.itu.int/). Any hope there?
Is the move from ICAAN to the UN as a governing body for the NET a
good one, or is the solution bottom-up, or realistically a combination
of both?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #16 of 31: Craig Maudlin (clm) Thu 31 May 12 08:51
    
Jon's question parallels one I've been trying to formulate.
Your book very effectively conveys the interrelated nature of a
complex set of difficult issues. Are there particular issues that
you feel offer the best hope for positive outcomes?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #17 of 31: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 31 May 12 13:36
    
Odd place to find a good article about the Internet, but Vanity Fair
has a good overview of the issues involved in regulation and what's
ahead at the ITU Telecom conference coming up this December in Dubai:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/05/internet-regulation-war-sopa-pipa-de
fcon-hacking
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #18 of 31: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 1 Jun 12 15:09
    
Nice article on you today Rebecca, via Big Think

http://tinyurl.com/8yaph4d

Great links and a video, woohoo!
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #19 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Sat 2 Jun 12 14:04
    
Hi guys so sorry for the delayed response. Been drowning in work these
past few days.

Jon, power is indeed distributed and exercised globally in
increasingly complex ways. But the problem as I see it and as I
describe in the book is less about the level of conflict per se than it
is about the extent to which people can understand how power is being
exercised over their digital selves, and whether those who exercise
power are constrained and held accountable. Our existing mechanisms for
constraining power, and holding power accountable to the public
interest, are no longer working in a globally networked world. 

Companies are exercising a form of sovereignty over people's digital
lives as I discussed in my last post. So we need to find a way to allow
free enterprise to do all the good things it does for society while
constraining the bad things. 50 years ago companies had a lot fewer
incentives to conduct their business in an environmentally responsible
manner. To the extent they now do so is the result of a broad global
environmental movement which has included everything from protests and
activist campaigns to activism by consumers, investors, and
shareholders. A century ago companies' labor and human rights standards
were many magnitudes worse than they are now, despite the fact that
they are still far from perfect. If we are going to get the "sovereigns
of cyberspace" to run their businesses in a manner that supports our
rights to free expression and privacy, that's not going to happen
without a massive global movement - including a wide range of different
types of activism from public exposes, criticism and demonstrations to
shareholder advocacy and investor activism, to grassroots activism by
users and customers of Internet platforms and services targeted
directly at the companies. One very interesting example of
company-directed grassroots activism is our-policy.org, a European
grassroots campaign to change Facebook's privacy policy and site
governance practices. I think we're going to start seeing a lot more of
these types of organizations focused on changing company practices and
demanding dialogue and even negotiations with executives.

As for government power: Our main mechanism for holding government
accountable and constraining its power is based on the democratic
process of the geographic nation state. So we have a situation where
governments - claiming to be acting in the interest of their geographic
constituents - are passing laws that affect how Internet companies
operate, which in turn affects what people all over the world can and
cannot do on the internet. This was one of the many problems with SOPA.
Congress was going to pass a law that would  shape how Google,
Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc etc. can operate, affecting internet
users around the world who did not vote the U.S. congress into office
and have no way of holding it accountable even though it is exercising
power over an increasingly important element of their lives.  

The problem is, what do we do about this sovereignty and
accountability mismatch and disconnect. Ted, you ask about the UN and
the ITU. That Vanity Fair article offers a good overview. I agree with
folks like Vint Cerf, the Internet Society, and most free speech and
civil liberties organizations that putting the ITU and thus the UN in
charge of the Internet would not be good for free expression and
privacy on the net. Why? Because the rights of Internet users are being
poorly represented by most nation states across the board. (In my book
I list how this is the case across a range of authoritarian and
democratic countries to varying degrees.)  Therefore, putting a body of
nation states in charge of the Internet strikes me as a particularly
poor idea. The Internet's core resources, protocols, and standards are
currently managed by multi-stakeholder bodies like ICANN or specialized
technical bodies like the IETF and W3C which anybody who has the
technical chops is welcome to participate in. These organizations have
done a pretty good job of managing things and enabling the Internet to
grow thus far. The problem is that many developing nations complain
that these organization are excessively dominated by Americans and
Europeans and don't adequately understand and focus on the concerns of
developing nations - where most of the growth in Internet usage is now
occurring. In my book I have a whole chapter about the history of
fights over global Internet governance, many of which revolve around
the Russians and Chinese and others complaining that the US has too
much influence over the Internet's development. I think the solution
however is in working hard to diversify global participation in the
various multi-stakeholder and engineering bodies, rather than in moving
control to the ITU. 

Coming back to Jon's original question about organizations. In
addition to a global movement to constrain corporate power we need a
broader global movement to constrain government power. In the U.S., in
addition to the more established organizations like the EFF and CDT and
ACLU which are all doing good work in the courts, in the halls of
Congress, and on the state level to defend Americans' digital rights,
we've seen some great new innovative organizations like
Fightforthefuture.org. Globally, you have groups like Access Now and
the Association for Progressive Communications and many others
advocating around the world for Internet users' rights. In Europe you
have the European Digital Rights initiative (EDRi) with members across
Europe. Groups are emerging in Latin America and Asia as well. A few
years ago environmentalist Paul Hawkin wrote the book "Blessed Unrest,"
documenting the rise of a global movement for social and environmental
change. We are now seeing a parallel movement emerging around digital
rights and liberties. If we are going to hold governments and companies
accountable to our rights, we need a similarly broad and deep movement
of all kinds of groups all over the world. 

Craig you ask an interesting question about whether there are
particular issues on which positive outcomes are more likely. I need to
think about that more. But it does seem to me that free expression
issues - freedom to connect issues, that is - are easier to build
consensus around and win on than privacy issues, particularly as they
relate to surveillance and law enforcement. Contrast the SOPA/PIPA
victory with the fight over the CISPA cyber-security bill which is a
much tougher fight.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #20 of 31: Rebecca MacKinnon (rmackinnon) Sat 2 Jun 12 14:06
    
I meant to include one more thing in response to Jon's question. On my
book's website I have a section called "Get Involved" with a huge list
of organizations that people who are so inclined can get involved with
or support in various ways. 
http://consentofthenetworked.com/get-involved/ 
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #21 of 31: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 5 Jun 12 07:19
    
I saw something eye-opening in the local (San Francisco) daily paper. 
What do you think of this consumerist criticism of Google's new
directions:

> In ways large and small, the Mountain View search giant is setting
up conflicts of interest across its varied business lines that will
prove increasingly difficult - if not sometimes impossible - to
reconcile.
>
> We saw two clear and troubling examples last week. On Wednesday, the
company said it was integrating Zagat reviews into its social network
and local search results, putting to use the popular business review
publisher it purchased last fall.
>
 ...
>
On Thursday, we saw an even more ominous shift in behavior as the
company announced plans to replace Google Product Search, a tool that
allowed users to compare product prices at retailers across the Web,
with a "purely commercial" service known as Google Shopping.
>
> What that means is Google will now charge retailers to have their
products listed in the service.  ...
  
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/02/BUJ21OQKCM.DTL&ao=
all>

The personalized search results already annoy me. What does it mean to
society to not have relatively neutral searching and navigation of the
web?
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #22 of 31: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Tue 5 Jun 12 07:39
    
When was it "relatively neutral searching"?   SOE is a business model,
making sure search engines list your company above the competition.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #23 of 31: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 5 Jun 12 08:09
    
Relative to what's coming, it seems. 

Historically the idea of SEO was that the businesses out there were
gaming the search engine's algorithms, in a battle between what
businesses wanted and what searchers wanted.  To my non-expert eye,
these two recent moves look like Google wants in on some of that
massive revenue that has been spent battling against the idea of what
the user wants to see.  I would love to know more from someone with an
inside, philosophical viewpoint.
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #24 of 31: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Tue 5 Jun 12 08:20
    
Google has been manipulating search results for years.

The CEO of Google personally requested that information about him be
removed from google years ago, they banned a CNET reporter from doing
interviews, etc.  Schmidt even tried to get google to hide his
political donations:

<http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-04-01/tech/29982057_1_sheryl-sandberg
-google-search-results>
  
inkwell.vue.442 : Rebecca MacKinnon - Consent of the Networked
permalink #25 of 31: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 5 Jun 12 08:31
    
True, there are demands for removal, and you can also opt out of being
crawled if you want to be a preemptive exception.  

Recent changes toward taking money for listings and owning a company
that is listed first do seem to be a turn in a different direction. 
Unless there has been pay to play that's been less visible, perhaps?
  

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