The Splinternet: Is the Digital Economy Doomed?
The Internet and the World Wide Web are pillars of globalization. Together, they have had such a great impact that people from the southernmost tip of Argentina can communicate with those in northern Siberia. It has brought people together and created a massive digital economy in its wake, so that person in Siberia can sell their old Pokémon cards to someone in Argentina and vice-versa.
But in the past few years, instances of deglobalization have started to creep in as detailed by RSM. This has led to fear that the borderless model which once powered the digital economy could be disappearing.
What is the Splinternet?
Widely considered a global online commons, the concept of the splinternet is that the Internet is now becoming fractured due to a variety of national and regional rules. What started out as a borderless, open network has experienced countries with different cultures and courts applying their own specific laws.
One of the main places this has caused conflict has been on social media, where there have been differences in what is acceptable to post. What is considered free speech in one country could be hate speech in another, but when it’s on the Internet: who makes that decision?
Regulation and Online Laws
There have been previous measures put in place such as geoblocking, where certain content is banned on a country-to-country basis down to the user’s IP address. However, this has been shown to be only around 95 percent effective and goes against the universal claim that everyone has a right to privacy.
There are obvious instances where country-specific regulations are in action such as China blocking Google and Facebook. Yet there is no central forum for Internet governance, with the Internet having a very American-centric view as a select few tech firms from the US control what we see online
The Impact on the Digital Economy
Much debate has gone on recently surrounding Internet neutrality in Europe and the digital single market, as well as human rights, security and privacy concerns, deglobalization and a splintering of the internet will impact the digital economy.
In China, the Great Firewall has protected many companies like Baidu from competition so they can thrive. With the offline focus becoming more based on national and regional economies, this could soon occur in other countries. If it does happen, then trade and business between international companies and consumers could reduce.
What Could Prevent the Splinternet?
Recent breakthroughs and developments designed to lead to a more global Internet include blockchain and the rise of cryptocurrencies. 2017 saw many cryptocurrencies rise by more than 1000 percent, demonstrating a huge rise in popularity.
With no central bank controlling them, these offer the complete opposite to deglobalization and should encourage more of coming together than splintering. Plus, in November 2017, Paris held the first conference dedicated to countries working together to coordinate Internet policies, so things move in the right direction.
Further, splintering the Internet could cause the digital economy to face many challenges and shrink, unless more global agreements are put into place.
“We hope you found this post presented to you by RSM as entertaining and informative as we did!”