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by Wendy Grossman
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In net.wars, Wendy Grossman accomplishes two things: She dissects and explains today's most controversial Internet issues and she thankfully explodes the myth that there were ever "good old days," when the Net was just one big happy virtual family. Grossman turns a well-tuned reporter's eye to the areas that generate the greatest amount of heat. She doesn't pretend to be a dispassionate observer, making neither bones nor apologies about being an enthusiastic netizen herself. She does, however, carefully examine all sides of each issue and she presents issues clearly before expressing her own opinion.
Grossman presents many of the issues you would expect, such as sex on the Net, the proper limitations of information security, hackers as heroes and villains, online sexism, and the dispute on the right to privacy versus the need for law enforcement. However, she also addresses less dramatic but equally fascinating issues, such as the debate between those who view the Net as an all-inclusive level society and those who are intolerant of newcomers and their mistakes. And then there's the world's newest form of bigotry--siteism--in which practitioners discriminate against a poster because they dislike the access provider the poster uses.
Rather than simply looking at the philosophical and ethical issues involved, Grossman presents the history of the various controversies, explaining landmark developments and detailing how each issue evolved into the "Net war" we see today. One example is the issue of "copyright terrorists," those who have applied old-technology definitions of intellectual rights in ways that others perceive as inhibiting free speech or as halting the fair use of knowledge. Here, the defining development in the controversy was a battle between the Church of Scientology and its opponents, where the worst casualties were, as in many real-life wars, those caught in between. Grossman traces the evolution of the battle step by step, presenting the views of key players on all sides and showing how laws intended for traditional media can have unexpected consequences when applied to the Internet. Entire volumes have been written about many of the issues discussed here, but this short book is enough to give readers an excellent grounding in all of them.
From Library Journal
Fans of Grossman, whose Wired magazine article, "alt.scientology.war," won her an award in 1996 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, will appreciate her latest endeavor. Grossman sets out to answer questions about the future of the Internet and how it will be regulated. She does a fine job of explaining the issues and the background behind online controversies ranging from the Church of Scientology raids on net users to the derailment of the Communications Decency Act. She also addresses such issues as net scams, class divisions on the net (especially regarding America Online users), privacy issues, women online, pornography, hackers, and computer crime. Her approach is one of informed skepticism, which is not surprising from someone who founded Britain's The Skeptic magazine in 1987. Grossman predicts that the world's governments will confront further issues as if dealing with an alien invasion, making the net wars of the 1990s look like a mere fracas. Most of her predictions are obvious, and she doesn't always propose solutions to problems she sees, but her book serves effectively as a warning flag. [An electronic full-text version of this work is available at .?Ed.]?Joe Accardi, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicag.
-?Joe Accardi, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
An informed view of the conflicts within the emerging cyber culture. Grossman, a freelance journalist, covers some old ground (the Communications Decency Act of 1996, for instance), but for the most part she concerns herself with newer issues unique to cyberspace. One area of controversy is cryptography, the process by which digital messages are scrambled to keep them private. The government finds the idea of complete privacy uncomfortable: What if someone is passing seditious messages or child pornography in encrypted E-mail? One of the most volatile areas is copyright protection in an age of electronic reproduction; Grossman covers here the ``copyright terrorism'' practiced by the Church of Scientology, which relentlessly litigated and, it has been alleged, physically threatened and harassed former members who tried to make copyrighted church texts public on the Internet. Although courts have supported the Scientologists' right to protect their materials, the peripheral results, most notably the closing down of several remailers (who offered anonymity to those who wanted to send messages without identifying themselves), was, many felt, too great a price to pay. Grossman also devotes space to the battle of the sexes on the Internet, paying particular attention to issues of sexual harassment via computer and the endless war against pornography of all kinds; the proliferation of pornography on the Internet seems, Grossman observes, to prove that ``sex perceives regulation as a dam and diverts into new media.'' Unfortunately, the solutions that Grossman suggests, while more politically moderate than those suggested by others, seem to subvert the true purpose of the Internet. She suggests smaller, more manageable virtual communities, whereas the Internet, in theory, is supposed to link all corners of the world. At least Grossman is offering solutions, however, which is what distinguishes Net.Wars from most contributions on this seemingly inexhaustible topic. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Reason, Nick Gillespie
...Grossman brings a wealth of professional and personal experience to the material--and a clarity of style and analysis that is a welcome relief from both the hyperbolic prose of many Net boosters and the overwrought jeremiads of cyberphobes.
New Scientist, Harold Thimbleby
Here at last is a sensible, thought-provoking and informative book about the complexity and challenges of the Net. Most books are too enthusiastic about the technology, too American, too Utopian, too get-rich-quick--or just out of date. In Net Wars we have a good, profoundly challenging book, which rises above parochialism. It is full of insights--as much into bulletin boards as sexual stereotyping, rights to free speech and establishing global copyright. Everyone, particularly police, lawyers, teachers, parents and scientists, can usefully read this book and consider what the Net really means for us all.
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