The world, both physical and digital, is in an unprecedented situation as the geopolitical tensions derived from the War in Ukraine advance. Corporate giants like Meta, Google and Apple, which have always presented themselves as neutral tech firms, are now putting their political flags on the mast, restricting their services in Russia in response to their invasion.
Meanwhile, the internet is changing for Russian users: Twitter and Facebook are blocked, TikTok doesn’t allow Russian users to post, and police are reportedly stopping people on the streets to see what they’re seeing on their phones. . Now there are questions about whether the conflict will not only alter the geography of the world, but also change the nature of the Internet as we know it.
What is Splinternet and how does it work?
For many experts, trying to cut Russia’s access to the Internet is a dangerous drift towards what is known as Splinternet, where different countries have different versions of the Internet that we all know and control at will. The Great Firewall of China, as it is known, is perhaps the most obvious example of how a country can create and monitor its own network.
But in Iran too, network content is monitored and outside information is limited by the country’s state-owned Telecommunications Company. Russia itself has been experimenting with a sovereign Internet , dubbed the Runet, for several years, though it has adapted to the conventional Internet rather than ascribe to the built-from-scratch version that China has in place.
In 2019, the Russian government said that it had successfully tested the Runet system. At the time, few understood the need, but now, in the context of the invasion of Ukraine, it all makes a lot more sense. The setup called for Russian ISPs to effectively configure the Internet within their borders as if it were a giant intranet, a private network of websites that are not interconnected with the outside world.
From a global network to a particular network
The initiative involved restricting the points at which the Russian version of the network connected to its global counterpart. Now it appears Russia is retesting those systems: In a Russian government memo, ISPs were asked to tighten their security and connect to domain-only Web Name System (DNS) servers on Russian territory.
Even so, and since then, Russia has repeatedly denied that it is going to isolate itself from the rest of the world by creating its own Internet, and has assured that those tests were only trying to protect Russian websites from foreign cyberattacks.
For most analysts, there is no doubt that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is reshaping the Internet, turning it from a global system to which the entire world has been connected, to something much more fractured and compartmentalized in which each state tries to influence. to maintain its sovereignty.