In the last year, the World Wide Web has started to look less "global". Developments in technology and the Internet are triggering more and more scenarios about what the evolution will be for the World Wide Web. What do we mean by that? Europe imposes regulations that could lead to temporary bans on its technology companies USA violating its laws. The US was ready to ban the applications TikTok and WeChat, with his government Biden to reconsider this move. India, which banned these two applications, as well as dozens of others, is now facing the Twitter.
In addition, this month the Facebook clashed with the Australian government over a proposed law that would require publishers to pay. The company decided to prevent users from sharing news links in the country as a "response" to the law, with the ability to drastically change the way the platform operates from one country to another. On February 23, the giant of SOCIAL MEDIA eventually reached an agreement with the Australian government and agreed to restore the news pages on its platform. Despite the outcome of this case, Facebook stated that it does not rule out the possibility of similar conflicts in the future.
Such conflicts are likely to result in the World Wide Web we know becoming more like what some have called "Splinternet" or a collection of different Internet boundaries defined by national or regional borders.
A combination of growing nationalism, trade disputes and market dominance concerns of some global technology companies has sparked threats of regulatory repression around the world. These forces not only support the technology companies that have created huge businesses with the promise of a World Wide Web, but also the very idea of creating platforms that can be accessed and used in the same way by anyone anywhere in the world.
As recent events have shown, a platform does not need to be banned or completely abolished for this fragmentation to occur. In response to Australia's attempt to pay publishers, when Facebook stopped displaying links from news sites to its Australian users, users outside the country also could not access content from Australian news sites. Temporary movement runs counter to the very principle of the Internet, which serves as a tool for the free flow of information worldwide.
In India, Twitter, when warned that it was "welcome to do business" but "must also respect Indian law", sought a means of withholding certain accounts that used what the government called "inflammatory and unfounded". hashtags. These accounts were not visible within the country, but some outside the country could access them.
It's a very different landscape from what has allowed US technology companies to accumulate enormous wealth and power. With exceptions such as China and North Korea, Facebook and its partners have managed to launch their products around the world.
Daphne Keller, platform program director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center, told CNN Business: "What is legal in Sweden is not legal in Pakistan, so we have to find a way to combine it with the way the Internet works. "The result is that either the platforms or the governments create violent geographical barriers, so that we see things differently in one country than in another."
Although Facebook is not the only tech company in governments around the world, it is perhaps more iconic than any other Silicon Valley business for promising a World Wide Web that defies the laws of various countries.
Five years ago, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated its goal to reach 5 billion users, or the majority of the world's population. Already, the company has more than 3 billion monthly active users in its various applications, as proof of its rapid expansion worldwide.
Specifically, Zuckerberg had stated in an interview with CNN in 2013 the following: "We want to make it so that anyone, anywhere - a child growing up in rural India who has never had a computer - can go to a store, pick up a phone, connect to the Internet and access all the same things. that you and I value for the Internet. "
Even in China, where the government online censorship device known as “Great Wall of Fire”, has "locked" the western technology companies for decades, Facebook and the Google tried to make concessions, but without much success.
Now Facebook is turning to a tried-and-true playbook for the tech industry: it threatens to take its products off the market in the face of adverse regulation.
In addition, in 2014 Google shut down the "Google News" service in Spain after the country passed a law similar to what Australia now thinks. In Australia, it also threatened to remove its search engine from the country under the same media law, before finally backing down and signing deals with some of the country's top publishers.
This time, at least, the playbook seemed to work somewhat for Facebook. However, there are indications that countries around the world - including the United States - are more willing to follow their lead. These companies are ultimately dependent on the continued access of billions of users around the world, and governments have shown a willingness to cut off that access in the name of protecting citizens and their dominance of the World Wide Web.
Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Business and author of "The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health," said: Companies like Facebook and Google will face a slippery slope if they start coming out of every marketplace that asks them to pay for its news, which will "severely limit" the content they can offer to their global user base. They have a legitimate interest in trying to force any market not to enforce such a regulation, threatening to withdraw. The other side basically says: "If you do not pay for the content, you will not have access to our consumer market or the content of this market."
As the World Wide Web becomes more and more fragmented, global regulators are joining forces.
The fight for news in Australia is a relatively small part of the conflict between technology and government, which focuses on issues such as censorship, privacy and competition. However, the response to Facebook's move in Australia has shown that a more international effort to control Big Tech could increase the potential and, with it, the potential for an additional break in how Internet services work from one country to another.
As his government cracked down on Facebook last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a warning to the social media giant stating: "What you are doing here can hurt you in other countries."
On February 23, Morrison said Facebook's decision to restore the news was "welcome," adding that the government remained committed to enacting legislation to ensure that "Australian journalists and news organizations are compensated enough for content they produce." .
In addition, other countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are now considering similar legislation against social media companies, with many of them even talking to each other about how to do it better.
Finally, Aral stressed that if Internet fragmentation continues to increase, the consequences could be dire. If this happens, social media platforms will differ from country to country or market to market and therefore we will have an information ecosystem completely divided or fragmented. He added that we will have completely different sets of information about local events, global events and perhaps a very shattered worldview of reality.