The Tangled Web We Weave

Inside The Shadow System That Shapes the Internet

We all see what the internet does and increasingly don’t like it, but do we know how and more importantly who makes it work that way? That’s where the real power lays…

The internet was supposed to be a thing of revolutions. As that dream curdles, there is no shortage of villains to blame–from tech giants to Russian bot farms. But what if the problem is not an issue of bad actors ruining a good thing? What if the hazards of the internet are built into the system itself?

That’s what journalist James Ball argues as he takes us to the root of the problem, from the very establishment of the internet’s earliest protocols to the cables that wire it together. He shows us how the seemingly abstract and pervasive phenomenon is built on a very real set of materials and rules that are owned, financed, designed and regulated by very real people.

In this urgent and necessary book, Ball reveals that the internet is not a neutral force but a massive infrastructure that reflects the society that created it. And making it work for–and not against–us must be an endeavor of the people as well.

JAMES BALL is the Global Editor at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Previously special projects editor at The Guardian, James played a key role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden. At WikiLeaks he was closely involved in Cablegate–the publication of 250,000 classified US embassy cables in 2010– as well as working on two documentaries based on the Iraq War Logs.

“Nimble and persuasive … Drawing on unusually candid interviews with a series of tech insiders and writing in terms that nontechnical readers can understand, Ball pulls away the software curtain to reveal a more complex institutional and corporate history … This book is refreshing and necessary.” —The New York Times

“A rueful, engaging discussion of the internet’s problematic centrality to these difficult times.” —Kirkus

“An excellent summary of how we got where we are, and how we can move forward to build a better internet”—Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

“A fascinating exposé of the world behind your screen. Timely, often disturbing, and so important.” —Carolina Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

“Every chapter in this book — from the material on surveillance to that on global, networked soft power — has real bearing on the pandemic world….Could not be more timely.” —Cory Doctorow, The Spectator

“An illuminating and focused guide on who controls the internet and how it control us. Will change how you see the world.” —Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia