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This is not an isolated case; I've been noticing quite a bit lately that news articles are referring to "people in general" or "a lot of people" as "the Internet." Here's the latest example I've seen (from the News app on my iPhone):

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Naturally, the Internet cannot be amazed at anything. It is not a person; it is not a sentient entity.

So why are reporters/writers now calling "people" by the medium they access to respond to things or events?

Before the Internet, a newspaper would say, "Our readers seem to be amazed by Nixon's love for his dog Checkers"; a radio announcer might say, "Many of our listeners find the music of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to be derivative" (or something like that).

What's with the Internet being treated like a collective mass of humanity?

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    Isn’t this just an example of metonymy? – James McLeod May 13 at 15:04
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    Possibly off-topic, but there is a concept called "corporate personhood" – Cascabel May 13 at 15:32
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    For the same reason you have “the newspaper would say” when newspapers don’t ‘say’ anything. – Lawrence May 13 at 15:44
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    No more than "amazes the US" or "amazes California" or "amazes USENET" or "amazes Instagram". – smci May 14 at 2:38
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    The same problem would exist if a newspaper said "our audience". An audience is not a person but it is used to represent a group of people the same way. The internet represents the audience. English doesn't always work well with logical approaches given slang, analogies, etc. – Michael Durrant May 14 at 11:34
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The internet is not being considered a person.

This is simply a case where "the internet" is used as shorthand for "the people on the internet". It is common in English. We see the same for:

High school girl's prom dress amazes the committee.

The rookie's skills impressed the team.

New York's claim to be "coolest city" angers San Francisco.

In each case the collective noun (committee, team, San Franciso) is used to mean the people in it. "The internet" is used in the same way. It's an example of "metonymy".

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    In your parenthetical, with that example, I’d think San Francisco is the better example—the “claim” sounds like it’s coming from a particular source who represents New York (the mayor?), while the “angering” is clearly occurring widely among the broader populace of San Francisco. (Of course, it’s also possible that the “coolest city” claim is being attributed to the populace of New York as a whole, which, as a New Yorker... yeah, guilty.) – KRyan May 14 at 3:49
  • @KRyan While it's true that the name of a collective is often used as a metonym for its leader, I think in this case "San Francisco" means "many (vocal) people in San Francisco". – Barmar May 14 at 14:04
  • @Barmar When I made the comment, the parenthetical in the last paragraph referenced New York, not San Francisco. What you say is true—which is why I recommended changing New York to San Francisco, which DJClayworth has done. – KRyan May 14 at 14:20
  • I'm not sure if "the committee" and "the team" are the best examples. Committees and teams are groups of people, and so I think it's debatable whether or not phrases like "amazes the committee" and "impressed the team" are even metonymy at all. On the other hand, San Francisco is a place and the Internet is a piece of infrastructure. – Tanner Swett May 14 at 14:48
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I am not totally sure about this, but I think it's because the internet is supported and made by a mass of people that collaborate together.

If you have a question, have you ever heard the phrase 'Ask Google'? That probably means the internet is a person that answers your questions. Each site and conversation that you had on the internet contributes to the system and networks of people from all over the world. That is why when you're talking about the internet, you're referring to a large web of people, socially connected together.

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  • Of course if you have certain smart devices, you can literally "Ask Google" some questions. – Darrel Hoffman May 14 at 13:49
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This is normal for a collection of people associated with a single entity or concept

Consider the following quotes as similar examples.

A political party, a country's legislature, a government department or a broadcasting organisation in a city are clearly not people. They are collections of people, making some collective decision or taking some collective action. (Or at least some group within that entity are making the collective decision or taking collective action.)

This is not new. The only element of novelty here is "the Internet", and that's only novel if you've been living in a cellar for the last 25 years. :)

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