Davey Alba at Wired muses that we are headed towards a “splinternet”: an internet that is different depending on the country of origin. There are two unfortunate realities to this. First, this is already true, in his own acknowledgement. Second, it is inevitable. What’s worrying isn’t that there are different internets; it’s that there’s a max-censored one.
Speech has always been regulated. Even in western democracies, we place limits on speech, oftentimes for good reasons (and sometimes for not-so-good ones). The Internet came about as a new technology and shattered those, but it was never really going to last. As each country places restrictions on their online presences, we should expect — and do see — different acceptance tolerances. The problem isn’t truly when it is within one country’s borders: it is when other countries are censored as well. The scarier one, to quote the article, is thus:
The trend of courts applying country-specific social media laws worldwide could radically change what is allowed to be on the internet, setting a troubling precedent. What happens to the global internet when countries with different cultures have sharply diverging definitions of what is acceptable online speech? What happens when one country’s idea of acceptable speech clashes with another’s idea of hate speech? Experts worry the biggest risk is that the whole internet will be forced to comport with the strictest legal limitations.
That is a more troubling aspect. If nations can censor the Internet, then there will be a winner-like scenario, where the technology is no longer a tool for communication, but a tool for domination. That should worry us.