Before we get started talking about the Holonet, we need to discuss how the internet works in real life. Here's how social media and other web 2.0 works: a company supplies a platform with servers and coding and what not, and regular people post their thoughts there. Customers either pay a fee to use the service, or they don't and their personal information is sold to third parties. Web 1.0 didn't work this way. It allowed for point-to-point communication via e-mail or AOL chat, but most user interactions were passive read-only. A handful of people who knew how to code had personal websites, but most of what was on-line were fairly static webpages maintained by companies or academic institutions. Think on-line stores, on-line editions of newspapers, and scholarly databases. Web 1.0 made it easy to find information, but Web 2.0 made it easy to find and organize like-minded individuals.
According to Wookieepedia the Holonet is basically a giant communications grid made up of planet-based coms towers and satellites transmitting data near-instantaneously across the galaxy. It's telephones, radio, tv, and the internet all in one. Throughout the films and cartoons, we see people using it in a couple of different ways. Most of the time, people are using it for point-to-point communication via hand-held communicators or holographic space!Skype. Most people seem to have personal handheld communication devices, although we also see a public telephone in the Wrong Jedi arc of the Clone Wars. Some droids, mostly astromechs, also seem to come with built-in com links. It also seems possible to have conference calls, as the Jedi Council uses throughout the PT and Clone Wars cartoons.
Every other time we see people using the Holonet, they are doing so passively (with one, incredibly notable exception). We see it playing on screens in public places like in bars and on the street (AotC, TCW, Rebels). We see people watching it via projector in private like the troopers stationed on the Reeshi Moon or the Ghost Crew at various points. We don't see a lot of people reading, let alone, searching the Holonet. The tie-in material makes reference to Holonet publications, but everything we actually see is basically TV.
Remember how I mentioned an exception before, well, it's pretty darn important. In the real world, web 2.0 has been revolutionary in the sense that it has facilitated actual revolutions. Social media helped to facilitate the Arab Spring which spread across the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and early 2011. Activists used social media to help plan and coordinate their activities and share the news of what was happening with people all around the world. In recent years, oppressive regimes have been using social media to track and crack down on people who protest via social media. Other nations, like Iran, have been working to restrict their citizens' ability to access social media platforms altogether. For totalitarian regimes, especially those with something to hide, the idea of citizens sharing information with each other is terrifying and the Empire clearly feels that way too.
Ezra's parents, Mira and Ephram Bridger, used a special device to hack into Holonet broadcasts with news and anti-Imperial messages. They, and their associates, were all arrested for it. Years later, the Empire used fake rebel Gall Trayvis' equally fake hacks to draw in and round up rebel sympathizers. At the end of Rebles season 1, Ezra uses his parent's device to broadcast and the Empire blows up its own coms tower rather than let him continue. This is all eerily similar to stuff that's happening right now across the world as authoritarian regimes arrest bloggers, censor the internet, and create fake accounts to infiltrate protest movements. If the Empire reacted to one kid sending out a message of protest and unity by blowing up a coms tower, there is no way they would allow for any type of social media.
So, what is on the Holonet then? Well, there's the news. We see a government news channel playing on the street at several points during the Clone Wars. According to Rebels, it's required viewing on all public screens. In AotC, we see sports channels playing in the club. Troopers are shown listening to music on the official GAR station. Even under the Empire, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that there's non-news programing. I'd also say it's a pretty safe bet that said programing is reviewed and censored by the government. The content is also heavily, if subtly, pro-Empire. There is a work-place comedy set in a bureaucratic office which helps to humanize the system. There is a 24-like thriller about an ISB agent using the Jack Bauer technique to foil a rebel plot to bomb civilians. There’s a teen soap opera set at an Imperial academy which makes joining up seem ripe with adventure, drama, and romance. There’s a creepy as fuck Mr. Rogers teaching little kids that everyone has a role to play in the Empire and they should report suspicious activity to the nearest trooper. There's probably written content too, like news magazines, hobby magazines, and educational material.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a holodrama you'd like to pitch?