Internet

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The Internet, a network of computers and similar devices -- and the people who use them -- via a set of simple communication protocols, has become a dominant force in modern life. Like previous inventions, such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television, the Internet has helped transform modern life by increasing communication and the availability of information. Its influence on modern politics has only begun. Much is made of the ease with which the Internet has increased the ability of everyday users (citizens with access to the Net) to influence major political campaigns. The Internet is also proving its strong potential to check political abuses through increased information, and encourage citizen participation in government through increased ease of interaction with others.

Important elements of the Internet include:

  • Email and far more complicated P2P (person-to-person) sharing of information
  • Usenet (which allowed the first boom in Internet discussion)
  • The World-wide Web, with its trillions of interlinked websites
  • Wikis, like Wikipedia and this informational clearinghouse, Ballotpedia
  • YouTube and other video-sharing sites
  • Alternate telecommunications, like Skype and other VoIP systems
  • Search engines, such as Google
  • Portal sites, such as Yahoo
  • Major e-commerce sites, such as Amazon and eBay

All these Internet institutions and more are allowing citizens to become better informed about government, and better enabled to influence it.