Net.wars is a non-fiction book by journalist
Wendy M. Grossman
Wendy M. Grossman about
conflict and controversy among stakeholders on the Internet. It was
NYU Press in 1997, and was simultaneously made available
free as an online version. The book discusses conflicts which arose
during the growth of the
Internet from 1993 through 1997, labeled by
Grossman as "boundary disputes". These disputes deal with issues
including privacy, encryption, copyright, censorship, sex, and
pornography. The author discusses history of organizations in their
attempts to enforce their intellectual property on the Internet,
against individuals who attempted to reveal confidential materials
asserting it was in the public interest. Grossman frames these
disputes with respect to overarching rights of freedom of speech and
the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The book received a positive reception, and was described by
Technology Review as "one of the first comprehensive reports on the
upheavals underway in cyberspace."
Publishers Weekly praised the
depth of discussion in the book, and
Library Journal commented
positively on the history and background imparted. New Scientist
gave the book a favorable review, commenting, "Here at last is a
sensible, thought-provoking and informative book about the complexity
and challenges of the Net." Reason magazine observed, "Grossman has
written an intriguing account of the Internet's partial fulfillment of
its seemingly limitless promise."
1 Publication history
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Wendy M. Grossman
Wendy M. Grossman (1997)
Prior to the book's publication, the author was recognized in 1996
with an award from the
American Society of Journalists and Authors for
an article in Wired magazine about conflict on the Internet.
Net.wars was published in book format by
NYU Press in 1997,
in addition to an edition in a computer file format.
NYU Press made
the text of the book available for free via its website.
The book discusses the changes online citizens saw take place on the
Internet during the period in the intervening years between 1993 and
1997. Grossman labels the conflict which took place during this
time as "boundary disputes". These "boundary disputes" included
issues involving privacy, encryption, copyright, censorship, sex, and
pornography. She describes these conflicts as taking place,
"along the border between cyberspace and real life". Grossman
attributes this conflict to "the Net's convulsions over the years 1993
to 1996, as it tried to assimilate huge numbers of new users who
didn't share the culture that had been developing over the previous
decade". The author acknowledges that she is a "Netizen", and
questions her own objective stance due to this involvement.
Grossman informs the reader that she appreciates "the fact that in
this age of polite political correctness there is a place in the world
where people feel free to speak their minds, even offensively". She
gives an analogy for the reader regarding those who would discuss and
comment on the phenomenon of the Internet-based community without
prior experience: "Journalists who don't use the Net themselves
routinely make such egregious technological and cultural errors that
you can only compare the results to what would happen if they were
assigned to write about the interstate highway system based on their
experiences at sea.... [I]f the police told you that prostitutes
routinely and openly solicited truckers and other visitors to roadside
rest areas and that therefore they were risky places for families to
visit, you would probably believe them and write the story.... At the
same time, after a while it's easy to lose perspective and forget that
behavior which is common and tolerated on the Net seems shocking to
The author states her desire for the
Internet to remain an open
community, "I would like to see the freedom of the old net.culture
survive in the face of the many competing commercial and regulatory
interests that might prefer to limit its reach and openness." The
book delves into specific examples of organizations which attempted to
enforce their perceived intellectual property from being distributed
to websites on the Internet, as balanced against the ability of people
participating in an online community to bring previously confidential
material to light whilst stating it serves the public interest to do
so. She recounts activism by
Internet users against the
Communications Decency Act, which was ultimately deemed
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Grossman includes a discussion of participation in online discussion
Internet with respect to the rights of freedom of speech and
the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Writing for the
Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Wade Roush called the book, "one of the first
comprehensive reports on the upheavals underway in cyberspace."
Roush commented on the author's writing style, "Grossman writes
plainly yet entertainingly, providing a pleasant antidote to the
breathless rhetoric one finds in many books and magazines devoted to
computer culture." The review concluded, "But what ties the book
together is Grossman's demonstration that the boundary disputes have
more to do with power than with decency or etiquette. The Net gives
all its users a vastly increased power to communicate. How much of
this power, she asks, will average users be allowed to keep?"
Donna Seaman of
Booklist wrote that Grossman, "vividly describes the
virtual realm as a place of interconnecting communities every bit as
complicated, exciting, and dangerous as any city." Seaman
concluded, "As Grossman relates Net lore and history, she traces its
transformation from a textual, academic medium into a graphics-heavy
promotional bonanza, a development that has caused the online
population to double over the past three years to nearly 60 million
users." In a review for Choice: Current Reviews for Academic
Libraries, C. Koch characterized the work, "This book is in the form
of a series of explorations of various instances of such problems and
how they can be seen to relate to matters of undesirable curtailment
of free speech and to the more positive potential of the Net to foster
new Net communities." Koch wrote of the author's writing style,
"The book is a bit rambling in style, but those committed to the value
of open Net community may find it pleasantly reflective."
Publishers Weekly reviewed the book and recommended it for multiple
types of readers, "Both newbies (newcomers to the Internet) and
Netizens (old-timers) will find challenges and rewards in this witty,
knowledgeable and timely report from the electronic front."
Publishers Weekly wrote positively of the amount of detail included in
the book's discussion, "
Journalist Grossman covers in considerable
depth the battles now raging over the First Amendment rights,
security, privacy and general standards of conduct in cyberspace."
Library Journal wrote of the success of the author's argumentation,
"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
Library Journal commented on Grossman's viewpoint,
"Her approach is one of informed skepticism".
"Here at last is a sensible, thought-provoking and informative book
about the complexity and challenges of the Net. "
Harold Thimbleby of
New Scientist gave the book a positive review,
writing, "Here at last is a sensible, thought-provoking and
informative book about the complexity and challenges of the Net."
He compared Grossman's writing to other works on the subject matter,
"Most books are too enthusiastic about the technology, too American,
too Utopian, too get-rich-quick—or just out of date. In
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." Thimbleby concluded, "Everyone, particularly police,
lawyers, teachers, parents and scientists, can usefully read this book
and consider what the Net really means for us all."
In a review for Reason,
Nick Gillespie described the book as, "a
nuanced map to the latest 'place' to inspire grand utopian thinking:
the Internet, that ethereal and increasingly important worldwide
network of computer networks." Gillespie wrote positively of the
author's breadth of knowledge and experience about the subject matter,
"An American journalist living in London, 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." His review concluded, "the great virtue of net.wars
is its recognition that cyberspace's utopian potential—its ability
to enrich existing real communities while creating new, virtual
ones—is directly tied to its ability to change, grow, and make
itself useful to its inhabitants. In showing how that process works in
both historical and cultural terms, Grossman has written an intriguing
account of the Internet's partial fulfillment of its seemingly
The Village Voice
The Village Voice pointed out the decision of publisher
NYU Press to
publish the book's contents online, noting, "Risking profits for the
sake of progress,
NYU Press has decided to publish journalist Wendy
Grossman's canny new book, net.wars, simultaneously in print and in a
free online version ... For NYU, it's a big gamble for publicity."
The review observed that the nature of the book's format was
appropriate for online distribution, "the online design of net.wars
points to an even more dramatic literary evolution. Net.wars, with
over 500 hypertext links, is truly more Web site than book, and it
unquestionably belongs online." In its review of her book, Kirkus
Reviews pointed out a paradox regarding one of Grossman's proposed
solutions to issues of encroachment upon
Internet freedoms. Kirkus
Reviews noted, "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." The review
concluded, "At least Grossman is offering solutions, however, which is
what distinguishes net.wars from most contribution on this seemingly
Human rights portal
United States portal
Censorship in the United States
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech by country
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech in the United States
Freedom of the press
International Freedom of Expression Exchange
^ a b c d e f g h i j Roush, Wade (May 1998). "Net.wars". Technology
Review. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. 101 (3): 80. ISSN 1096-3715.
^ a b c d "Net.wars". Publishers Weekly. December 1997. Retrieved
^ a b c d Accardi, Joe (December 1997). "Net.wars". Library Journal.
United States. 122: 134. ISSN 0363-0277. Retrieved
^ a b c d e f Thimbleby, Harold (January 17, 1998). "Net.wars". New
Scientist. Great Britain. 157 (2117): 43. ISSN 0262-4079.
^ a b c d e f g h i Gillespie, Nick (June 1998). "Net.wars". Reason.
United States. 30 (2): 67–69. ISSN 0048-6906.
^ OCLC 476663198
^ OCLC 37451759
^ LCCN 97-21214
^ OCLC 80536390
Net.wars - Wendy M. Grossman". NYUpress.org. NYU Press. Retrieved
^ a b c d Seaman, Donna (December 1, 1997). "Net.wars". Booklist.
United States. 94: 596. ISSN 0006-7385. Retrieved
^ a b c d Koch, C. (June 1998). "Net.wars". Choice: Current Reviews
for Academic Libraries. United States. 35 (10): 1744.
^ a b c d "Net.wars". Kirkus Reviews. November 1997. Retrieved
^ a b "Free for All". The Village Voice. Village Voice Media. January
20, 1998. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
Leonard, Andrew (December 29, 1997). "Net.wars". The Nation. United
States. 265: 30. ISSN 0027-8378.
Cram, Ian (2006). Contested Words: Legal Restrictions on Freedom of
Speech in Liberal Democracies. Ashgate Publishing.
Curtis, Michael Kent (2000). Free Speech, "The People’s Darling
Privilege": Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History.
Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-2529-2.
Godwin, Mike (2003). Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the
Digital Age. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-57168-4.
Krotoszynski, Ronald J. (2009). The First Amendment in Cross-Cultural
Perspective: A Comparative Legal Analysis of the Freedom of Speech.
NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-4825-2.
McLeod, Kembrew (2007). Freedom of Expression: Resistance and
Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property. University of
Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-5031-4.
Nelson, Samuel P. (2005). Beyond the First Amendment: The Politics of
Free Speech and Pluralism. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Net.wars, full text of book, at NYU Press