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About this book
Reclaiming Social Media for Civil Society
Once, it was conventional wisdom to assume that digital technologies would enable greater access to information, facilitate collective organizing, and empower civil society. Rather than facilitating unity and the emergence of a common ideology based on science, the internet and social media have proven to be vehicles used to spread falsehoods, pollute the public sphere, and subject populations to wholesale surveillance. People are also spending an unhealthy amount of time staring at their devices, “socializing” while in fact living in isolation and detached from nature. As a consequence, there are pushes to regulate social media and to encourage tech giants to be better stewards of their platforms, respect privacy, and acknowledge the role of human rights. A prerequisite of any such regulation, however, is a complete understanding of the precise nature and depth of the problems.
Technology and security expert Ronald J. Deibert examines the scope and scale of the personal, social, political, economic, and ecological implications of social media. Drawing from the cutting-edge research of the Citizen Lab (which he directs), Deibert analyzes consumer compulsion and the information economy; the disturbing rise of authoritarian practices, cyberwarfare services, and social engineering campaigns; and the negative environmental impact of digital devices, data farms, and electronic waste. Ultimately, Deibert exposes social media’s disproportionate influence in every aspect of life to the detriment of society and of our humanity — so much so that we are now in urgent need of a wholesale shift in our lifestyles, a fundamental revision of culture, work, and politics. And not just in one country, but around the world.
About the Author
RONALD J. DEIBERT is professor of Political Science and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab undertakes interdisciplinary research at the intersection of global security, information and communications technologies, and human rights. The research outputs of the Citizen Lab are routinely covered in global media, including more than two dozen reports receiving exclusive front-page coverage in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other global media over the last decade. Deibert is the author of Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy, and the Dark Side of the Internet, as well as numerous books, chapters, articles, and reports on internet censorship, surveillance, and cybersecurity. In 2013, he was appointed to the Order of Ontario and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, for being “among the first to recognize and take measures to mitigate growing threats to communications rights, openness, and security worldwide.”
Awards and Praise
PRAISE FOR RONALD J. DEIBERT AND BLACK CODE:
“Black Code is terrifying. It effortlessly chronicles threats ranging from individual privacy to national security . . . [highlighting] the shadowy, lucrative war online, behind closed doors and in the halls of power, which threatens to control, censor, and spy on us, or worse.” — National Post
“Gripping and absolutely terrifying . . . Black Code is a manifesto for the twenty-first-century form of network stewardship, a sense of shared responsibility toward our vital electronic water supply. It is a timely rallying cry, and sorely needed.” — Cory Doctorow, Globe and Mail
“Ron Deibert is an excellent guide to the fascinating and disturbing world of cyber security.” — Joseph S. Nye Jr., distinguished service professor, Harvard University, and author of The Future of Power
“For more than a decade, Ron Deibert’s Citizen Lab has been at the forefront of decoding actions both crude and subtle to disrupt internet access and usage. A path from the Dalai Lama’s hacked laptop to a worldwide espionage ring is but one tale of many of the Lab’s singular exploits — now gathered here in this compelling volume that chronicles the ongoing wars amidst the internet’s rise.” — Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Law and professor of Computer Science, Harvard University, and author of The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It
“At a time when autocrats, criminal gangs, and others are trying to control and pervert the use of cyberspace, Ron Deibert’s Black Code rings like a fire bell in the night, warning us that the price of a new global commons of shared knowledge and connectivity is vigilance in defense of free expression and the rule of law. Anyone who cares about the future of democracy needs to read this timely and most important book.” — Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy
“Black Code stimulated my thinking about the potential for making the internet a much safer place.” — Vint Cerf, internet pioneer and “Father of the Internet”