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

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


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.