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Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism

“Her personal conversations and interactions with activists – and, interestingly, some of the well-intentioned people working early on for the social networks – provide the kind of authentic, grounded foundation for her broader arguments that is inevitably absent from much academic work.”

– Karlin Lillington, Irish Times

“[Silicon Values] presents a general audience with an accessible introduction to content moderation in the context of free expression — and a fascinating look at the historical evolution of what we now call commercial content moderation.”

– Robert Gorwa, LA Review of Books

“York, who for many years has been international activism director at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, certainly knows her stuff. But she does not claim to have all the answers and is willing to admit past naïveté. Her proposals for change, however, are clear and democratic, arguing for independent content moderation, social inclusion, and a user-powered movement against the handful of American men who currently run the show from Silicon Valley. ‘The future is ours to write,’ she concludes. It has to be.”

– Vanessa Baird, New Internationalist

“An incisive and compelling read that places Silicon Valley’s platforms and policies in a global context. York knows this terrain intimately, and she takes us to the key battlegrounds that have shaped content moderation, internet governance, and the political economies of online expression.”

– Kate Crawford, author of Atlas of AI

“Jillian York provides an insightful narrative into the haphazard methods by which the major social tech companies have constructed their moderation policies over the years since their founding..”

Nicole Barbaro

“For years, Jillian York has been at the forefront of defending freedom of expression online. Her new book unpacks how Silicon Valley corporations have gained more control over speech than the most ambitious of governments and how ill prepared they often are to use that power in ways that are just and fair. Entertain- ing, deeply informative and often very personal, Jillian’s journey into the world of online speech reflects on deep questions about how we should treat one another and who makes the rules for societies in our digital world.”

– Ethan Zuckerman, Associate Professor at UMass Amherst and Cofounder of Global Voices

“A personal, relevant, and accessible reflection on how our world has become governed by Silicon Valley. York takes us on an enjoyable journey from San Francisco to Tunis to Cairo to Berlin to trace the change from the early belief in maximizing free speech shared by the big tech platforms and the people alike to the policies of surveillance and control exercised by the platforms (and encouraged by most governments) that make the struggle for free expression a much more demanding battle.”

– Rasha Abdulla, author of The Internet in the Arab World

“In Silicon Values, York looks at how our digital rights are undermined by corporations and platforms that have more access to our personal details than any state in all of human history. Through the book, she argues for more protection of citizens against the harvest of our most precious commodity: our personal data. It’s a heavy but insightful read, and will probably make you think twice about skipping the terms and conditions on the sites you use.”

– Sam Vassallo

“This practical work casts a wide-enough net over relevant topics and examples to be richly informative, while still managing to be straightforward in its style. York offers a solid entry point for those who have been following ongoing issues relating to the intersection of politics and technology.”

– Jessie A. Lambertson, Library Journal

“The Internet has never been the utopia of free and equal expression its ideologues would have us believe it is. Jillian York’s vivid reportage shows us that the power to determine who gets to use it to speak, and under what circumstances, is now more concentrated—and less accountable—than ever before.”

– Adam Greenfield, author of Radical Technologies

Summer 2021 book launch party at BRLO BRWHOUSE

What is the impact of surveillance capitalism on our right to free speech?

The Internet once promised to be a place of extraordinary freedom beyond the control of money or politics, but today corporations and platforms exercise more control over our ability to access information and share knowledge to a greater extent than any state. From the online calls to arms in the thick of the Arab Spring to the contemporary front line of misinformation, Jillian York charts the war over our digital rights. She looks at both how the big corporations have become unaccountable censors, and the devastating impact it has had on those who have been censored.

In Silicon Values, leading campaigner Jillian York, looks at how our rights have become increasingly undermined by the major corporations desire to harvest our personal data and turn it into profit. She also looks at how governments have used the same technology to monitor citizens and threatened our ability to communicate. As a result our daily lives, and private thoughts, are being policed in an unprecedented manner.

Who decides the difference between political debate and hate speech? How does this impact on our identity, our ability to create communities and to protest? Who regulates the censors? In response to this threat to our democracy, York proposes a user-powered movement against the platforms that demands change and a new form of ownership over our own data.

About the Author

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist whose work examines the impact of technology on our societal and cultural values.

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