We know it started in 1970 by the US military.
The first significant and organized left involvement happened via the Institute for Global Communication (IGC). IGC spawned peacenet, econet and many other forums for left wing organizing. IGC forged international connections, launching the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) with six other organizations around the world. IGC along with it's partners in APC built a left-wing Internet.
Mosaic, the first major web browser that could display images, was released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The programmers were later poached by a company called Netscape Communications leading to the first wave of major corporate investment in the Internet.
The Zapatistas declare war on the Mexican Government, launching a global revolutionary movement opposed to neo-liberalism and demonstrating the ability for the left to use the newly mainstreamed Internet to inspire a mass movement.
Facing a corporate media blackout on the eve of the Battle in Seattle, movement technologists launched the Indymedia Network, a loose grouping of alternative media web sites allowing anyone to post articles, pictures and video about global justice protests and activities. Developed hand-in-hand with the global justice movement, Indymedia centers rapidly popped up in cities all around the world.
The global justice movement was crushed post 911. Without a movement to anchor it, the Indymedia network began to decline, while corporate efforts that copied the innovative easy-to-publish workflow began to proliferate, eventually to be dominated by Twitter and Facebook.
The first black president in US history, Barack Obama, is elected. Despite right leaning policies (include record levels of immigrant deportations), he inspires trust and confidence in the left. The left begins a massive migration to and dependency on corporate services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Between 2010 and 2016, massive global protests erupt, including Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, and Standing Rock. These movements' largely successful use of corporate platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook, cement the left's dependence on proprietary Internet services.
While the left's use of corporate social media sky rockets, Edward Snowden reveals that our worst fears about goverments using corporate Internet services to illegally spy on us are barely the tip of the iceberg. The mass migration of left organizations to corporate services continues unabated.
Police violence against black folks has been happening for centuries, but the use of cell phone video to document and publicize the abuse helps launch the Black Lives Matter movement. When the ubiquitous cameras are in the hands of the movement, we turn the tables on the surveillance state.
Donald Trump's election is a wakeup call to the left.
Successful campaigns illustrate the connections between the corporate tech platforms the left depends on and the technology that powers ICE, facial recognition software, and other repressive policies. The left's relationship to the corporate Internet begins to change.
Covid19 disrupts every aspect of our lives, pushing us toward a greater dependence on online tools. The movement responds by both widely criticizing Zoom, the defacto corporate standard, and developing non-corporate alternatives such as Jitsi Meet and Big Blue Button.
The potential of right wing, fascist propaganda to spread over corporate social media platforms reaches a crescendo, prompting corporate media to remove a sitting president's account and shutdown entire fascist propaganda operations.
What next? How can we stop the right, while building our own Internet that can't be turned off?
What happens next?