Russia is Risking the Creation of a “Splinternet”

If Russia disconnects from — or is booted from — the internet’s governing bodies, the internet may never be the same again for any of us.

Facebook has been blocked entirely by Russian authorities, while Twitter is almost completely cut off. Many more companies have voluntarily withdrawn from the Russian market—including Apple, Microsoft, TikTok, Netflix, and others. Russia is rapidly joining the likes of Iran as a digital pariah state.

The moves have raised fears of a “splinternet” (or Balkanized internet), in which instead of the single global internet we have today, we have a number of national or regional networks that don’t speak to one another and perhaps even operate using incompatible technologies.

That would spell the end of the internet as a single global communications technology—and perhaps not only temporarily. China and Iran still use the same internet technology as the US and Europe—even if they have access to only some of its services. If such countries set up rival governance bodies and a rival network, only the mutual agreement of all the world’s major nations could rebuild it. The era of a connected world would be over.

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