One of the rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 19481 is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. However, the rise of nationalism and protectionism globally is leading to the internet splintering into smaller parts, each of which is governed differently and therefore referred to as the splinternet. Instead of a single global internet, this would lead to multiple national or regional networks that do not speak to each other or possibly even are unable to due to incompatible technologies. Concerns around the splinternet include fragmented online marketplace (making it harder for companies to reach their target audiences) and the evolution of different business and compliance standards around data management, protection, and transactions. This presents new risks and compliance challenges for companies operating in multiple countries.
A good starting point for addressing potential risks and compliance concerns is understanding the evolution of internet regulation
The free flow of data defined the early internet. However, eventually, jurisdictions started blocking certain sites, apps, and products due to their nature of work, content hosting, or simply because they originated from a hostile nation. Businesses no longer have unfettered access to the information, and Governments are increasingly restricting online content and apps. Most recently, we have seen Russia and various western nations block each other’s content from being made available within their national boundaries2. The calls for Russian domains to be revoked altogether, which would have effectively taken Russia off the internet, were also made to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), albeit unsuccessfully3.
However, there has also generally been a rise in internet regulation globally across jurisdictions, especially concerning cross-border digital transactions, which has led to measures such as data localisation mandates. Consequently, Governments are effectively restoring the role of national borders in the digital economy.Download PDF to read more