25 November 2021

The Splintering Splinternet

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Everybody knows that China has the Great Wall, but probably not all of us know that China has implemented the Great Firewall. The former invites people to see the great wonder, while the latter actually works completely the opposite. The Great Firewall is a system of regulation and technology where information from outside is censored. Started in 1998, the project restricts a substantial amount of external information, keeping the Chinese internet heavily monitored and secluded from the rest of the world.


What is Splinternet?

Similar cases to China’s Great Firewall can be found in other countries, one of which is Russia and its Intranet project. These phenomena of disconnecting from the whole world and creating an exclusive internet system give rise to the popular buzzword splinternet, where the internet ecosystem is fragmented by political decisions. Examples of splinternet may be easily found in post Cold War countries which seek to limit the West’s (mainly America’s) influence, as the internet as we know it is dominated by American discourses. But the European GDPR is an example of how splinternet can also occur in the West.


Can splinternet occur in Indonesia?

It depends on many factors. Splinternet doesn’t always have to occur with radical regulations such as China’s great firewall and Russia’s Internet. It might start with partial restrictions of information. Indonesia banned TikTok in 2018 before the platform rebranded itself and became a national phenomenon. As of 2021, several websites such as Reddit, Vimeo, and Rockstar Games are still blocked. The scale of the ban is certainly far from China and Russia’s radical decisions, but it is possible for splinternet to occur here if certain narratives dominate our national politics.


The obvious ramification of splinternet would be the limited amount of information and elevated amount of surveillance. This would significantly affect enterprises, especially the ones who rely on connections to multiple countries. Hypothetically speaking, if splinternet was about to be implemented in Indonesia, businesses would have to observe which countries would remain unaffected by the national regulations. There’s also a possibility of a country imposing a ban on Indonesian websites, and these would affect businesses which build relations with the country.


What should business managers do?

The idea of Indonesian splinternet might still be a hypothesis at the moment, but here are what business managers can do to anticipate splinternet:


  • Be Aware

Good business managers always keep themselves up to date with the latest information. Learning more about political climates and internet regulations would give you information on multiple possibilities and how they would affect your business. It’s also important to be aware of the fact that access to information and other countries entirely depends on politics and power, and decisions can change at the drop of a hat, according to an incumbent government’s policies.


  • Anticipate the Effect

As mentioned before, the splinternet – even in the tiniest scale – can affect your business. For instance, if Indonesia bans TikTok again in the future, it will affect many parts of your business, particularly your digital marketing strategies. Your brand will need to re-adjust its image and campaigns to other social media platforms. On a larger scale, if there’s a ban on a certain country’s product (similar to what happened in the Old Order era), your business needs to assess possible risks and adapt to the situation.


  • Look at the Silver Lining

If you google the term “splinternet”, you would mostly find anxiety over the phenomenon. While the concerns are completely valid (considering that there would be restricted information, more surveillance, and ruined business relations), the splinternet can prompt local businesses to flourish. For example, when TikTok was prohibited in India, many local social platforms (Moj, Josh, Roposo) actually developed. Thus, if splinternet occurs, local institutions should think of ways to adapt to the isolation and make new innovations.

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