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Social impact of the Internet
The Internet has enabled entirely new forms of social interaction, activities, and organizing, thanks to its basic features such as widespread usability and access. Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace have created a new form of socialization and interaction. Users of these sites are able to add a wide variety of information to their personal pages, to pursue common interests, and to connect with others. It is also possible to find a large circle of existing acquaintances, especially if a site allows users to represent themselves by their given names, and to allow communication among existing groups of people. Sites like meetup.com exist to allow wider announcement of groups which may exist mainly for face-to-face meetings, but which may have a variety of minor interactions over their group's site.
In the first decade of the 21st century the first generation is raised with widespread availability of Internet connectivity, bringing consequences and concerns in areas such as personal privacy and identity, and distribution of copyrighted materials. These "digital natives" face a variety of challenges that were not present for prior generations.
The Internet has achieved new relevance as a political tool, leading to Internet censorship by some states. The presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 in the United States was notable for its success in soliciting donation via the Internet. Many political groups use the Internet to achieve a new method of organizing in order to carry out their mission, having given rise to Internet activism. Some governments, such as those of Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, the People's Republic of China, and Saudi Arabia, restrict what people in their countries can access on the Internet, especially political and religious content. This is accomplished through software that filters domains and content so that they may not be easily accessed or obtained without elaborate circumvention.
In Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, major Internet service providers have voluntarily, possibly to avoid such an arrangement being turned into law, agreed to restrict access to sites listed by authorities. While this list of forbidden URLs is only supposed to contain addresses of known child pornography sites, the content of the list is secret. Many countries, including the United States, have enacted laws against the possession or distribution of certain material, such as child pornography, via the Internet, but do not mandate filtering software. There are many free and commercially available software programs, called content-control software, with which a user can choose to block offensive websites on individual computers or networks, in order to limit a child's access to pornographic materials or depiction of violence.
The Internet has been a major outlet for leisure activity since its inception, with entertaining social experiments such as MUDs and MOOs being conducted on university servers, and humor-related Usenet groups receiving much traffic. Today, many Internet forums have sections devoted to games and funny videos; short cartoons in the form of Flash movies are also popular. Over 6 million people use blogs or message boards as a means of communication and for the sharing of ideas. The pornography and gambling industries have taken advantage of the World Wide Web, and often provide a significant source of advertising revenue for other websites. Although many governments have attempted to restrict both industries' use of the Internet, this has generally failed to stop their widespread popularity.
One main area of leisure activity on the Internet is multiplayer gaming. This form of recreation creates communities, where people of all ages and origins enjoy the fast-paced world of multiplayer games. These range from MMORPG to first-person shooters, from role-playing games to online gambling. This has revolutionized the way many people interact while spending their free time on the Internet. While online gaming has been around since the 1970s, modern modes of online gaming began with subscription services such as GameSpy and MPlayer. Non-subscribers were limited to certain types of game play or certain games. Many people use the Internet to access and download music, movies and other works for their enjoyment and relaxation. Free and fee-based services exist for all of these activities, using centralized servers and distributed peer-to-peer technologies. Some of these sources exercise more care with respect to the original artists' copyrights than others.
Many people use the World Wide Web to access news, weather and sports reports, to plan and book vacations and to find out more about their interests. People use chat, messaging and e-mail to make and stay in touch with friends worldwide, sometimes in the same way as some previously had pen pals. Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook and many others like them also put and keep people in contact for their enjoyment. The Internet has seen a growing number of Web desktops, where users can access their files and settings via the Internet. Cyberslacking can become a serious drain on corporate resources; the average UK employee spent 57 minutes a day surfing the Web while at work, according to a 2003 study by Peninsula Business Services.
The internet has been criticized for its Identity Performativity. User's define and label themselves on social networking sites through artistic tastes, personal experiences and relationships, and visuals (photographs, blogs, etc.). Some argue that the ability to construct a user's identity is limited by other's work and criticize the internet's lack of physical interaction.