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Internet Way of Networking 18 May 2022

Protecting the Internet As We Know It – Three Things You Can Do Today To Stop the Splinternet

Natalie Campbell
By Natalie CampbellDirector, Community Organizing and Public Advocacy

We’ve seen signs of a looming splinternet for years. And while Internet shutdowns and clashing country approaches to Internet regulation aren’t new, recent geopolitical events have led us closer than ever to a tipping point.

We must protect the Internet now, or there won’t be one to save in the future.

Here’s a quick reminder of what is a splinternet and why most people don’t want it: it’s the opposite of the Internet. A splinternet is the idea that the open, globally connected Internet we all use splits into a bunch of isolated networks controlled by governments and corporations.

How Would That Impact You?

The Internet’s simplicity makes our experiences online seamless. You don’t have to negotiate with gatekeepers before sending an email, shopping online, or collaborating on your band’s new album in a cloud environment. If you’re among those lucky to have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access, you can simply go online and do it.

A splinternet would make things way more complicated. Using the examples above, your international friends might never receive your email, you might have to pay to shop on websites in other countries, or you might have to break up the band because you can’t reach each other.

Why should you be worried? The quick answer: the splinternet is closer than ever.

The Internet is very resilient, and we’ve got loads of supportive data to prove it. It is hard to imagine how the world would have fared through an ongoing pandemic without this global resource, which was agile and resilient enough to adapt to our evolving needs. But we can’t take that for granted.

What makes the Internet so valuable and a literal lifeline to humanity also makes it vulnerable. We recently wrote about three paths that can lead to a splinternet. These include:

  • Countries trying to disconnect from the Internet and control the networks within their geographical boundaries.
  • Governments increasingly making decisions about the Internet without taking care to protect what makes it work for everyone.
  • Countries making political requests and decisions that impact the ability of other countries to access to the Internet.

The latter, which was spurred by the war in Ukraine, has brought us closer than ever to our worse-case scenario. It would only take one political decision on another country’s ability to access the Internet to set a dangerous precedent that snowballs into a splinternet.

Luckily, G7 and European Union countries recently committed to sanctions exemptions to protect the ability of people to access the Internet. But there’s much more work to be done.

The Internet is not just our privilege to use, it’s our responsibility to protect it. Each of us must act now to prevent the splinternet, or we may not be able to reverse course.

The Internet Society—a global community of over 120 chapters and nearly 90,000 members worldwide—is already taking action to protect the Internet. So can you.

Many Internet Society chapters worldwide are sending letters to decision-makers, asking them to protect the Internet. Our organization members are also helping to raise awareness! Check out this new video by our organization member Surfshark.

Here are three easy things you can do right now to help #ProtectTheInternet:

  1. If you see something, say something. Learn what causes a splinternet, and let us know if you spot any threats near you by contacting [email protected].
  2. Ask governments to #ProtectTheInternet. You can share our splinternet explainer, and ask officials to make Internet Impact assessments a standard practice for new rules and regulations.
  3. Grow the movement using social media. Here’s a suggestion. “Protecting the global Internet from a splinternet means protecting [fill in the blank: (humanitarian efforts, free flow of information, livelihoods, economies, human rights]. Join @InternetSociety to help #ProtectTheInternet.  #StopTheSplinternet 
Learn more about how to protect what the Internet needs to exist and thrive—then do something today.

Image credit: Nyani Quarmyne

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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