He explained. Why the Russia-Ukraine War Threatens to Break the Internet

In 2001, when the Internet faced a series of regulations from around the world, Clyde Wayne Crews, a researcher at the liberal think tank Cato Institute, proposed the idea of ​​the “splinternet”: or powers.

The main suggestion was to have more internet instead of more regulations.

Internet disruption has occurred in some limited ways over the past two decades. Great Firewall of China is keeping out US tech giants while promoting indigenously developed online services. In 2019, Russia passed the Internet Sovereignty Law, or the Online Iron Curtain, which enabled the country to cut off its internet from the rest of the world.


Crews may have been ahead of his time in creating a shard. But the events of the past four weeks represent the first major challenge to how the Internet has evolved into a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices.

As dystopian as the idea may seem these years, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seems like a potential catalyst for a broken internet. In an interview given by Henri Verdier, France’s ambassador for digital affairs Bloomberg Newsrecently stated that the combination of Moscow’s increasing attempts at online censorship, coupled with Ukraine’s repeated calls to pull Russia off the grid, could potentially lead to “internet fragmentation.”

“Will a Single, Neutral, Versatile, Free Internet Overcome This Crisis?” Verdier asked. “I’m not sure.”

The Internet is essentially a global network of physical cables that may include copper telephone wires, television cables, and fiber optic cables, as well as wireless connections such as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G that use physical cables to to connect users and devices. to the internet. Countries connect to global web services through undersea cables or hubs, which are connection points through which data is transferred to and from the communication networks of other countries. The Splinternet concept involves blocking or regulating these connection points.

Viability barrier

Could Russia or China simply create a parallel or alternative system that would be viable? There are already government-run walled garden experiments taking shape.

In Iran, for example, a project called the National Information Network (NIN), also known as the National Internet in Iran, was initiated by the State Telecommunications Company of Iran. Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council defines NIN as “an Internet Protocol-based network with switches and routers and data centers that allows data requests to avoid being routed outside the country and provides secure and private intranets.”

The Great Firewall of China, also known as the Golden Shield Project, is another attempt along these lines. It was initiated by the Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government in 1998. The goal of this project is to control and censor what can and cannot be seen online in China, and is continuously improving the restriction techniques through various methods. . It blocks access to many foreign internet services, which in turn helps local tech giants such as Baidu expand their reach.

Like Baidu, Russia has tech champions like Yandex and Mail.Ru. But unlike their Chinese counterparts, Russians have been able to access global technology platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google despite some censorship.

However, since the invasion of Crimea, Moscow has been actively working on its own separate Internet project. The country plans to create its own Wikipedia, and Russian lawmakers have passed a law banning the sale of smartphones that do not have Russian software pre-installed.

Most of these provisions and restrictions on Western platforms are implemented through a “sovereign internet law” passed by Moscow in 2019, which allows Roskomnadzor, a state communications player, to regulate internet access in the country and potentially sever its online connections. the rest of the world.

As sanctions tightened, Moscow announced it had decided to block Facebook in response to its own restrictions on Russian media.

India is also understood to be working on a new cyber security and data governance framework amid the ongoing “weaponisation” of the internet by Big Tech platforms during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has concentrated vast powers on social media platforms.

The groundwork and sandboxing of India’s broken internet has allegedly been happening for the past few years. Last year, Union ministers and political leaders of the ruling BJP threw their weight behind the micro-blogging app. you — Meanwhile, New Delhi was confused about Twitter.

What are the problems with cracking?

Until now, state-sponsored cyberwarfare, despite stray incidents, has been a sporadic phenomenon. This has largely been made possible by the diplomatic involvement of countries and jurisdictions in maintaining cyber relations. Among these works, a fragment could be placed in a jar.

According to Verdier, any move by Russia to move toward an independent Internet would have “serious consequences,” including the temptation for countries to launch cyberattacks because they would be insulated from influence.

“If I hack the Russian internet today, I’ll probably hack my own internet, because it’s the same thing,” Verdier said. BloombergAn argument for the public nature of the World Wide Web protects all users from losing service.

US President Joe Biden has already warned that Russia is considering attacks on critical infrastructure. “Based on emerging intelligence, Russia may be planning a cyberattack against us,” Biden said at a March 21 press conference.

Moscow categorically denied these accusations. “The Russian Federation, unlike many Western countries, including the United States, does not engage in state-level banditry,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

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A case for a splinter network

Crews argued two decades ago that “the war on digital communities requires more regulation and adds to a deteriorating and outdated Internet.” He wrote that unbundling the Internet would not only increase options but also protect the rights of Internet users “which depend so heavily on the institution of private property.”

It is also noteworthy how the project of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that was formed after the financial crisis of 2008, whose main driver was a lack of trust in centralized authority, culminated in the spread of Web 3.0, which is reimagined and decentralized. a form of open, untrusted and permissionless internet, or perhaps another crack at the existing internet.

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