MacKinnon is currently a Bernard Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, where she conducts research, writing and advocacy on global Internet policy, free expression, and the impact of digital technologies on human rights. She is also considered a leading expert on Chinese Internet censorship. Her first book, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, was published by Basic Books in January 2012.
She is also the co-founder of Global Voices Online, a global citizen media network. She serves on the Boards of Directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative to advance principles of freedom of expression and privacy in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she worked as a journalist for CNN in Beijing for nine years, serving as CNN’s Beijing Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 1998-2001 and then moved to Japan where she was CNN’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Correspondent from 2001-03. From 2004-06, she was a Research Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where she started researching Chinese Internet censorship and corporate responsibility issues, in addition to launching Global Voices Online. In 2007 and 2008 she served on the faculty of the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre, where she taught online journalism and conducted research on Chinese Internet censorship. During that time she was also Project Lead for Creative Commons Hong Kong In 2009 she continued her research and writing as an Open Society Institute Fellow, and in the Spring of 2010 she was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.