When the internet splits

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When the internet splits

PARK SANG-HYUN
The author is the media director of C.O.D.E.

At the end of last month, Russia announced that it had successfully completed a test on the domestic network to replace the international internet. Russia had passed a bill to create its own exclusive internet network earlier last year. If the plan is implemented, Russians will be completely severed from the international internet that people around the world use, or can only access information approved by the Russian government. In other words, state’s information control becomes easy.

Russia is not the only one. China has had so-called “Great Firewall” policy of blocking foreign media as well as services like YouTube, Google search, Facebook, Instagram and Netflix. While nurturing its own internet industry, China blocks circulation of information that the government does not like. Countries like Iran and North Korea also use similar methods.

Experts are worried that these attempts limited to totalitarian countries in the past are developing into a global trend as “internet disintegration” or “Splinternet.” While Western countries, as well as China and Russia, have mixed opinions on how to control the internet, the U.S.-inspired internet and the European-version are being created. The former focuses on national security and crime prevention while the latter is making new rules emphasizing privacy and personal protection.

When the internet has different standards and access levels depending on the country and region it is created, international finance and trade, as well as international information exchange, will be affected. One global internet that has been compared to an “ocean of information” that anyone can access in the past become a number of separate ponds of various sizes.

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