Internet Fragmentation Exists, But Not In the Way That You Think


The internet, we are advised, is in danger of splitting up and fragmenting. Websites are indeed filtering partitions of countries from news and opinion, and cyber conflicts among nations threaten to fracture our online world. Reinforcing those concerns are parallel developments in politics: the backlash towards free change and immigration and the nationalistic need for exit from the European Union. But is a globally well-suited internet, in reality, below threat? And what does “internet fragmentation” mean? In my new book, I have a look at these questions. What I found is reassuring in one feel and deeply regarding another.


The debate is a charming duality at the coronary heart of the Balkanization. The idea of net fragmentation may be used to reach two diametrically hostile conclusions:

The net is now and always has been fragmented;
The catch is not now, and it cannot be fragmented.
The net can be considered “fragmented” as it was designed to be a network of networks. The basic devices of internetworking, called Autonomous Systems, are self-governing parts of the complete. All Autonomous Systems can and do work out manage over who they interconnect with, what packets they admit into or out of their structures, what services they need to accept or block, and what content can enter and go away. In this sense, the net is already “Balkanized.” It is a Federation of Autonomous Systems with an extensive capability for selective, excellent-grained secession from almost some other part of the federation.


The net is unlike the Balkans in one vital appreciation: all autonomous systems communicate a language that is not unusual. That language of statistics formatting, naming, addressing, and routing requirements, called “the net protocols,” is hard and fast. The primary of these is the network protocol (IP), which received the conditions of warfare within the early nineteen nineties and has become the unshakable uniter of world statistics communications ever since. Nothing on the horizon is going to dislodge it from that function.

Despite tries to fracture the domain name device or expand the countrywide internet (e.g., Iran, Russia, China), community outcomes have consistently been defeated. They could continue to dominate any systemic rupture within the technical compatibility of our online world. So, is fragmentation a mirage? Nothing to fear about? That leads us to the alarming element.

The internet created a truly globalized space for human interplay. As digital abilities became ubiquitous and vital to societal capabilities, the usual human troubles arose. Yet, there may be a big mismatch between the worldwide scope of connectivity and the political and felony institutions for responding to societal problems. The state, regulations, guidelines, rules, and courts are societies’ primary mechanisms for coping with crime and battle. But in contrast to the net, the government sector is not unified and unfragmented. It is territorial and sovereign.

The essential misalignment among the worldwide internet and the fragmented criminal and institutional mechanisms humans have devised to control themselves drive the fragmentation debate.

Most of what people are now mislabeling as “fragmentation” needs to be referred to as “alignment”—to pressure the spherical peg of worldwide communications into the rectangular hollow of territorial states. This no longer threatens the net protocol’s dominance. However, it does erode and impair the full-size fee generated with the aid of a globally interconnected, largely self-governing area for change and communication.

Internet alignment leads to efforts to filter out content material to make it comply with neighborhood laws, to require agencies to keep their users’ records in neighborhood jurisdictions, to preserve net routing within national borders, to need governments or users to rely on local organizations as opposed to foreign ones for gadget and services; to link cybersecurity to countrywide protection. It is set partitioning cyberspace to subordinate it to sovereign states. The strain for alignment no longer comes from authoritarian governments. It comes from Brazil, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, and the United States. It comes from states qua states.

The countryside is possibly the incorrect unit upon which to base governance of most components of cyberspace. As sovereign countries emerged centuries ago to solve certain governance issues caused by the early cutting-edge political economy, our online world may also require new governance varieties. Perhaps net authority may be based totally upon a new global polity, just as present democratic countries were primarily based on famous sovereignty within bounded territories.

This does not imply the whole removal of states and their replacement using digital groups; its simplest approach is the displacement of precise portions of territorial states’ authority over communications and records. This may also sound romantic or wild; however, some of its miles are already in movement. The area call system’s control has shifted to a transnational group, and several requirements are similar to a cyber attribution enterprise.


Every movement for political autonomy has had to displace some pre-existing form of sovereignty. Suppose internet customers truly shape a community with its very own pastimes, developing identity, norms, and modes of residing collectively. In that case, it’s highly viable that they can be organized to assert and benefit their independence from present regulations or to force concessions and adjustments upon the vintage order. The tension between international cyberspace and the territorial state is the primary component that drives Internet governance and cybersecurity debates. It is time to face that hassle at once.