Cross-posted on the NELA conference blog.
Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) Keynote: Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, Rebecca MacKinnon (Monday, 8:30am)
MacKinnon pointed to many excellent resources during her presentation (see links below), but I’ll try to summarize a few of her key points. MacKinnon observed that “technology doesn’t obey borders.” Google and Facebook are the two most popular sites in the world, not just in the U.S., and technology companies affect citizen relationships with their governments. While technology may be a liberating force (as envisioned in Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial), companies also can and do censor content, and governments around the world are abusing their access to data.
“There are a lot of questions that people need to know to ask and they don’t automatically know to ask.”
MacKinnon noted that our assumption is that of a trend toward democracy, but in fact, some democracies may be sliding back toward authoritarianism: “If we’re not careful, our freedom can be eroded.” We need a global movement for digital rights, the way we need a global movement to act on climate change. If change is going to happen, it must be through an alliance of civil society (citizens, activists), companies, and politicians and policymakers. Why should companies care about digital rights? “They are afraid of becoming the next Friendster.” The work of a generation, MacKinnon said, is this: legislation, accountability, transparency, and building technology that is compatible with human rights.
It sounds overwhelming, but “everybody can start where they are.” To increase your awareness, check out a few of these links:
- Consent of the Networked (website for the book)
- “Let’s Take Back the Internet” TED Talk
- “Hugs for YouTube” video
- Age of Internet Empires (a map illustrating the most visited website by country)
- The Economist’s Democracy Index (2013)
- Freedom on the Net (2013)
- The Web Index: “Designed and produced by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Web Index is the world’s first multi-dimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations.”
- International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (Necessary and Proportionate)
- Big Data and Civil Rights (civilrights.org)
- Global Voices Advocacy: “We seek to build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists dedicated to protecting freedom of expression online.”
- Research on youth and privacy by danah boyd
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Human Rights Watch