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What is a netizen?

A netizen is a person who uses the internet, especially as a forum, for the expression of views and participation in political society. The term is a portmanteau of the English words "internet" and "citizen."

History of the term netizen

The term netizen was first used in the early 1990s by Michael Hauben and Ronda Hauben, a husband-and-wife team who were studying the social and political implications of the internet. The Haubens believed that the internet had the potential to create a new kind of citizen, one who was more informed and engaged in political society.

The role of netizens

Netizens can play a variety of roles in political society. They can use the internet to do the following:

  • Stay informed about current events. The internet is a vast resource for news and information. Netizens can use the internet to stay informed about current events, both in their own country and around the world.
  • Participate in political discussions. The internet provides a forum for people to discuss political issues. Netizens can use the internet to share their views on a variety of topics, and to engage in dialogue with others.
  • Organize political campaigns. The internet can be used to organize political campaigns. Netizens can use the internet to raise money, recruit volunteers and spread the word about their cause.
  • Vote in elections. In some countries, netizens can use the internet to vote in elections. This can make it easier for people to vote, especially those who live in remote areas or who have disabilities.
Chart showing the three iterations of the world wide web
A netizen uses the internet in its various incarnations -- including the different stages of the development of the World Wide Web -- to express their views and participate in political society.

The importance of netizens

The term netizen is a relatively new one, but it has quickly become an important part of our vocabulary. Netizens play an important role in political society. They can help to inform the public, participate in political discussions, organize political campaigns and vote in elections. Netizens can help to make political society more open, democratic and participatory.

Learn how techno-nationalism links technology and technological innovation to national identity.

This was last updated in April 2023

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