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Techdirt Book Club: Consent of the Networked, by Rebecca MacKinnon

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Okay, as promised earlier this month, we're doing a "book club" discussion around Rebecca MacKinnon's Consent of the NetworkedThis Step2 discussion is a place for people to submit and vote on questions that we'll use in the discussion itself.  If you have questions you want to discuss submit them below and as people vote, we'll send the best questions to Rebecca and have a wider discussions with everyone at the end of the month...

Also, I know there was some concern that people were unable to obtain a copy of the book.  If you still want to participate, Rebecca recently did a great interview with Jerry Brito on his Surprisingly Free podcast.  There she discusses many of the key themes in the book, which should give you a good starting point for questions to be asked...

initiated Mar 15, 2012 in Ask Techdirt by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160

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There are some excerpts and interviews that might be helpful to people who didn't have time to read the book or didn't want to buy it. See Slate here and here. Also Canada's National Post here and here,

Also see this Ars Technica review and my TED talk last year which draws on the book's argument.

response added Apr 3, 2012 by Rebecca MacKinnon (480 points)   1 3
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Could users push for change on their own or would it be to be an effort including governments and positive examples from industry?

response added Mar 22, 2012 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160
It depends on what "change" you're specifically talking about. If it's a bad law (like SOPA) that industry doesn't like either, then you can have alliances between users and companies against government stupidity or evilness. Other times companies do bad things - like violate users' privacy - and users ask government to help rein them in (or at least some do - people are divided about whether government involvement is more productive or counterproductive). Sometimes you have situations where government and companies are colluding together against users, customers, and citizens.The point is that we need a wide and diverse global movement for Internet freedom, rights and liberties.  I draw a parallel from the environmental and labor movements. The only reason companies ever do the right thing when it comes to environmental and labor practices is due to massive global movements through which people exacted costs on companies for bad behavior in their various roles as consumers, investors, voters, and activists. It's not that they are perfect by any means but decades of activism on all fronts has undeniably brought real improvements if you compare the situation to 50 years ago. Similarly the only reason why government gets it right on policies and laws related to the environment or anything related to civil liberties for that matter is thanks to long-standing citizen activism. Politicians and CEO's don't just wake up one day and decide to do the right thing. They generally do the righ thing because they fear that the public will make them pay one way or another if they don't. The public currently isn't exacting sufficiently high costs on companies and governments when they violate our digital rights and liberties. We need to start making it clearer that we're serious, and find more effective ways to make that clear.
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Which projects do you think have the most potential for expanding the digital commons?

response added Mar 22, 2012 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160

I've listed quite a number in the "get involved" section of my book's website. I'm inclined to think that having a robust digital commons requires a diverse ecosystem of many large and small projects and initiatives all over the world rather than one or two massive centralized uber-projects.

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What major events have occured since you published that you wished you could have included? Is there anything in the book that you might change in a next edition?

response added Mar 22, 2012 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160
I used a fairly traditional old-school publisher so the text was really finalized in August 2011. A lot happened between then and the book's release on February 1st. The biggest event was the anti-SOPA fight, of course. I will definitely include an update about that and probably also the nasty cybersecurity bills Congress is considering.Things happen every day that relate to the book. The point of the book, though, was not to have an up-to-the-minute account of everything - that's what blogs and articles are for. The point was to make a broader conceptual argument about trends and problems, and what we need to do about them. I think my broader argument and framing of the problems we face has held up pretty well.Another point worth making is that this book wasn't actually written with the typical reader of tech blogs in mind. It was written for people who rarely read anything about tech other than what shows up in MSM, who may have never read an "Internet book" before, but who care about the future of democracy in the Internet age and who badly need to be educated about what the threats to our digital liberties are, the power struggle being waged for control of the internet, and what ordinary non-techie people can do about it.
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What is the most egregious example of corporate censhorship?

response added Mar 22, 2012 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160

I describe in these excerpts here and here how the most insidious abuse of digital power is when you combine unnacountable government with unaccountable companies. Different permutations, variations and degrees can be found around the world.

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What could the average user be doing today to have input on the networks and intermediaries that they use daily?

response added Mar 22, 2012 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160
I think we need to see users and customers getting together in associations, developing leadership from the bottom up, then demanding that company management meet with them in person. We need to get more innovative with how we combine the best techniques of online organizing with old fashioned in-your-face, in-the-flesh collective bargaining.
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FYI, folks, Google Books has some previewed parts of the book here. In case anyone wanted to digitally flip those some of the pages...

response added Apr 3, 2012 by Michael Ho (2,370 points)   10 14 27

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