The client net state: Trajectories of state control over cyberspace

Publication Name

Policy and Internet


Social media corporations have become fixtures of daily life to the extent they are regularly compared to states in size and scope. These corporations and their platforms have become the dominant stakeholders of cyberspace, operating as state-like cyber actors, or net states. Previous approaches have limited the net state to the online, framing their populations and agendas separate to the material reality of their everyday operations, overlooking the tangible overlap between sovereignty and cyberspace. In this article, we examine whether net states can be co-opted into the apparatus of state in a manner comparable to client states. We examine the case of WeChat, the Chinese multipurpose messaging and social media app developed by Tencent in its operation as a client net state of the People's Republic of China. The interactions between these actors are mapped using a methodological framework incorporating actor-network theory to demonstrate the existence of client net states, and how they may be deployed to expand a state's influence and cyber sovereignty beyond its physical borders.

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