To reflect on the “political implications of the Internet” today is both arrogant and futile. What we call the Internet—computers and routers but also smartphones and the Internet of Things—is invading our existence. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; properly designed and governed, it could actually be a healthy development for democracy. But once the Internet is everywhere, a question like “What are the political implications of the Internet?” loses much meaning, in part because it is like asking “What are the political implications of everything for everything?” or “What are the political implications of money?”
The “Internet” is a set of services, platforms, standards, and user behaviors that vary across cultures. Online platforms that are popular in Russia—LiveJournal and VK—have different modes of governance, free-speech policies, and functionality from the platforms popular in either America or China. These platforms, shaped by the peculiar political conditions in which they emerged, give rise to different citizens and different politics. The totality of platforms, behaviors, and users constituting “the Internet” in one country is not the same as “the Internet” in another country. It never has been and never will be the “same Internet”—not even in the context of a single country.