Is "Balkanized" Internet The Dark Future of Decentralized Internet?by@nebojsaneshatodorovic
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3,405 reads

Is "Balkanized" Internet The Dark Future of Decentralized Internet?

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Currently, “today’s internet is owned by everyone and no one.” The Chinese president, Xi Jinping "had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself." "Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has increasingly isolated the country in recent days, could also prove to be the death knell for its presence on the worldwide web.”

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Be careful what you wish for!

In theory, we all know what is the Great Firewall of China all about. Right? You don’t have to be a rocket nor a computer scientist to grasp the basics. I think that the more appropriate term would be the Great Internet “Gate” of China. Why?

Well, a wall, even in the cyber-space doesn’t leave too much room for negotiations. Your content or message becomes just another brick in the Great Firewall, and that’s it. With the “gatekeepers,” you can at least negotiate what or who gets through and to which extent. Just ask HBO’s “Peacemaker” John Cena, if you took the same crash course in Mandarin Chinese as he did.

But hey, you may ask, what does the Great Firewall or “Gate” of China has to do with the decentralized internet? Talking about gates, there’s one The Doors’ song that comes to mind:

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn't get much higher

Can China “build” the Firewall so tall, and lock the Internet Gates, so it isolates its Web completely? In other words, could China run its own (limited) version of the World Wide Web?

Between Cyber Sovereignty and State Authority

Currently, “today’s internet is owned by everyone and no one,” if you can turn a blind cyber eye to

Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. China is strongly pushing the idea of the New IP, which “could mean that everyone in those countries would need permission from their internet provider to do anything via the internet — whether downloading an app or accessing a site — and administrators could have the power to deny access on a whim. Rather than a unified world wide web, citizens could be forced to connect to a patchwork of national internets, each with its own rules — a concept known in China as cyber sovereignty.”

If this formulation of the so-called “cyber sovereignty” makes your head hurt, here’s the simple and straight the point version of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping himself, who had already established that the Chinese internet would be a world unto itself.

China's Independent Internet. How does it sound to you?

The Chinese Internet may ultimately become the first separate Internetwork, that while sharing some genes with one parent, the first Internet, also has a separate and different genetic code designed by its national administrators.

Oh, I couldn’t care less. Let them have their own Chinet or whatever it’s going to be called. Big deal. Huh!

What if your idea about “separatists” and “Balkanized” World Wide Webs finds another “host?”

No Peeking Behind The Internet Iron Curtain

Russian citizens, unlike their Chinese counterparts, have been able to access US tech platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, though they have been subject to censorship and restrictions — the defining feature of China’s internet model. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has increasingly isolated the country in recent days, could also prove to be the death knell for its presence on the worldwide web.”

The death knell? Hmm, I don’t think so. It’s more like the perfect excuse to follow the Chinese’s self-isolated internet footsteps.

It’s a perfect storm that could lead Russia to finally seal off its population from the rest of the global internet, much like China already has.

The perfect storm?! Now, that’s much better.

“I think one nuanced difference between Russia and China is that China has the technical capability — their Great Firewall is very sophisticated and Russia doesn’t have as much of that,” said Xiaomeng Lu, director of the geo-technology practice for the Eurasia Group. “As much as they [Russia] want to do a comprehensive, full blockage, I think technically there are some challenges.”

But, we all know, where there’s a will, and unfortunately a war in Ukraine, there’s a way.

Lu admits it is hard to predict exactly how quickly a complete severing of Russia’s internet from the world will take place, but recent development indicate it could happen in “weeks or maybe even days.”

The World Ain’t Perfect - Beware of the Domino Effect!

It seems that the “movement” of pulling the Internet plug has more than just two followers: China and Russia.

Two UN experts have called on Iran to “abandon its efforts to enact a new law that would effectively isolate the country from the global internet.” More commonly referred to as the User Protection Bill, it grants Tehran and the military “extensive control over infrastructure that connects Iran to the global internet.”

“The User Protection Bill” has a license to kill - the Internet. Meaning, that this Bill “would further enhance Iran’s ability to disconnect its population from the outside world during times of crisis.”

Freedom House's “Saudi Arabia: Freedom on the Net 2021 Country Report” can be summarized in one picture:

Where Do We Decentralize the Internet From Here?

One people. One country. One leader. And, One Internet. Is that the future of our brave new digital world?

There’s a haunting scene from the movie “Contact” that should be about new hopes and new worlds. It raises a question about the first person and the ideology the aliens are first to see.

Now, imagine the “next generation” that’s more Internet than TV-oriented like we saw in the movie. There won’t be one World Wide Web, but a dozen or even more national or regional Webs to represent diametrically opposed views and values.

There’s a thin line between decentralization and the “balkanization” of the internet. Think about it.