The Internet: A Free for All or a Place of Freedoms?

The Internet: To what extent is the Internet fundamentally democratic?

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In theory, the Internet should not be democratic—it should be anarchy. There is no single regulating force or regime that decides what is important or what isn’t (unless you have some Google-is-Big-Brother theory, but for the sake of this blog’s length, we’ll pretend you don’t). I think the Internet is indeed democratic, but I believe the question is flawed in asserting that that is the “right” or “natural” state of the Internet.

These days, I feel like the word democracy has gotten misconstrued. Its definition is as follows:

de·moc·ra·cy [dih-mok-ruh-see]

noun, plural de·moc·ra·cies.

1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Thus, a democracy does have a specific power that is controlling the system. The Internet does not have this, nor will ever truly have this. Granted, some countries regulate their Internet, but that is not the doing of the Internet and its constituents as a whole. A democratic Internet would be one where every single user has the opportunity to decide how the Internet works, like what can be put on it, what is stealing from the Internet, and other such issues. However, the Internet does not have that or need that. It is, for all intents and purposes, a free for all. Granted, there are certain regulations with copyright and laws in the United States, but these do not exist in the Internet. In fact, a lot of the exist because of the Internet, like laws regulating music downloading because of Napster, for example.

Also, one must consider that the Internet is not a body that even truly can have one system of government. Instead, it is the amalgamation of a mass of ideas from different people, different languages, different societies, different countries, etc. etc. This is what I think makes the Internet a little democratic. The pressures of what is popular and what isn’t creates a sort of “election,” as what “wins” is what will pop up first on other social media sites.

To return to the original question, I do not think the Internet is fundamentally democratic nor should it be. Instead, it has a ghost structure of a democratic system due to the way it operates and forces certain issues to the forefront. It also interestingly has a much more complicated system of “parties,” mirroring the political parties we see in America today both literally and in other areas. These parties are the users you see competing with one another on Twitter, forums, and other posts.

There is plenty of evidence that the Internet influences democracy, but the Internet itself is not a structure that can be democratic. Although the Internet has some elements that make it seem democratic, it simply cannot be due to its sheer size.

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4 thoughts on “The Internet: A Free for All or a Place of Freedoms?

  1. I agree with your opinion that the Internet is democratic but only in the Western world. However, how about in some countries in the East, such as China and North Korea? These government’s completely control what their citizens view on the Internet as well as what they can and cannot do. Additionally, citizens in China and North Korea are unable to freely post negative commentary about their government. The only positive thing about China’s internet is the lack of copyright, free music and computer programs (even Photoshop!).

  2. I think your second to last paragraph hit the nail right on the head. I guess I can see both sides to what you are trying to say: I see how the Internet can be democratic and I see how it can not be. Its hard to view something as broad and widespread as the Internet as having any sort of government to it, but you worked your way through this piece very well!

  3. This is an interesting topic to think about. I liked how you talked about what is popular on the internet and how that can be viewed as a type of “election”. The internet, in my opinion, is definitely too broad to categorize as a type of government. But it is interesting to think about how the internet shapes itself to fit to your needs. For example ads that appear on the sides of websites tend to be things you frequently search on the web or shop for (for me its always sometime of shoe deal). The internet in a way gets to know each of its users in a unique way, does the government do that for its citizens?

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