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News Posted on January 18, 2012

Internet and Digital Technologies Expert Rebecca MacKinnon Speaks on ‘Consent of the Networked' in CILC Event

Rebecca MacKinnonAuthor Rebecca MacKinnon, an internationally renowned expert on global internet policy, free expression, and the impact of digital technologies on human rights, presented  ideas from her new book Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, to an audience of King Hall students and faculty in the Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom on January 11.  The event was co-sponsored by the California Internal Law Center at King Hall (CILC), UC Davis School of Law, the UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, and the King Hall Intellectual Property Law Association.

MacKinnon, a former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief, an authority on Chinese Internet censorship, and a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation who is also well-known for her participation in the TED Global Talks 2011 series of online discussions, discussed numerous examples of the ways in which internet technologies have served as both a means for freedom of expression and a tool of repression in countries including Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran. 

MacKinnon talked about the ways in which traditional notions of sovereignty, usually based on the consent of the governed within specific geographic boundaries, are being challenged in a world where businesses that provide access to internet technology function across international boundaries, often without accountability to network users.  The ways in which technological systems are configured and the standards by which they function often have significant impacts on freedom of expression and access to information, yet currently no system exists to ensure users' rights.  MacKinnon noted that government attempts to control internet content and access, even among democracies, generally have produced flawed proposals for systems subject to potential abuses, prompting internet activists to propose a wide range of alternatives that have not yet been embraced by governments or service providers.

"We're in a time when we're really not sure where we're going, and there are strong feelings that the current systems are not working, sovereignty is not matching up to the ways power is exercised, the way in which information is flowing, and we haven't figured out what to do about it," MacKinnon said.  "But we've reached a moment where we're recognizing that there needs to be a shift, and the next couple decades are going to be very critical in figuring out where we're going."

Rebecca MacKinnon lecture video

Consent of the Networked website