I used to say in a very offhanded way that if the global governance and due process issues continued unaddressed, or the affronts to multi-national sovereignty got worse then the logical outcome, eventually, would be a “net-split”.
A Net-split from the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) parlance is when a cohesive network – like the internet – splits off into two or more discreet topologies, each with no visibility into the other.
At a global internet level this means not being able to see certain TLDs anymore, or having other TLDs come into existence which the other network fragments cannot access:
The … internet root is held together largely through two things:
As all of the world’s peoples, businesses and websites come increasingly under the jurisdiction and law of a single country, consensus will fragment. The internet root will have to be under the stewardship of an honest broker who can respect the rights of all sovereign interests as they relate to the internet.
Otherwise, it ends with a split internet root, if we’re lucky. If not, it ends with a completely Balkanized one, because while it may not be the case now, as this escalates (and I suspect it will), it will pose intolerable risk to non-US entities of all stripes.
In a later article I criticized ICANN for not being more of a watchdog to globally diverse interests:
ICANN is conspicuously absent from curating the interests of global stakeholders within the overall naming scheme. Because of this, US law applies across most of the internet, and in the absence of a concerted effort to address global interests…there will eventually be a root level net split and won’t be pretty (yes, I’m fully aware how crazy that sounds now, I always sound crazy about 5-years in advance.)
When the US Government announced that they would transition the internet root to a “global entity” to be named later, a lot of people went hysterical thinking that meant the UN would control the internet, or even worse, the ITU. Ted Cruz ruminated that this meant Russia and China could take over the internet.
All of the drama turned out to be misplaced as the “global oversight body to be named later” turned out to be (drumroll) ICANN itself! As of the Oct 1, 2016, ICANN now has sole oversight of the internet root. They can add and remove Top Level Domains, entire country codes, without seeking external approval. Paul Ryan tried to block even that, saying ICANN could censor websites. He’s theoretically right, but practically wide of the mark – for now. This may change once the “Cultural Purge” commences (see below). Overall I think Cruz and Ryan have it backwards over who should be most concerned about this and where it could lead.
This root transition was the opportunity to get it right, to look at the global governance, multi-stakeholder, cross-jurisdictional issues and due process concerns and come up with a truly non-US, global oversight mechanism. If not the UN then something. Even if only a globally chartered NGO (not the ITU!) to oversee ICANN as the root operator.
But it’s done and ICANN is it. The buck stops there, and ICANN is a US-based, California corporation, so Cruz and Ryan can probably relax about Russia or China. Quite the contrary, in fact.
What made the internet great was it’s transcendent quality of reaching across borders, of transparency , of facilitating dialog and above all – for its massive levelling of the playing fields everywhere.
The struggle now, here, today is the struggle against the wholesale co-opting of these pillars of the internet. With governments using it to create a surveillance state, and henceforth to even craft an “official reality” an accepted narrative outside which it’s considered deviant or subversive to venture. The irony of President Obama’s recent speech (ignored by the media) wherein he decried the “wild west media” and called for some kind of ‘verification of truthiness’ would be comic if it were not so chilling:
“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to… There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world…That is hard to do, but I think it’s going to be necessary, it’s going to be possible,” (emphasis added and yes, he actually used ‘Truthiness’)
If the subtext of this speech doesn’t scare the hell out of you then you are not paying attention.
And what is this “Wild West media” he’s up in arms about? From where I’m sitting (granted, that’s Canada) the “official reality” promulgates narratives which are gleefuly perpetuated by a compliant mainstream media. As I know from personal experience, what passes for “journalism” these days is regurgitated government crafted “talking points” interspersed with stuff cobbled from Twitter.
“Stories” are untested, unquestioned, often planted and increasingly nonsensical – like the recent gem ‘The Russians are hacking the election for Trump’ – that one has my bs-meter redlining.
In fact Glenn Greenwald meticulously reverse engineered where this came from, which was later corroborated by the mea culpa issued by the original reporter, along with strong indications that the entire farce was egged on by US intelligence agencies, not the Russians.
That Wikileaks is regularly dumping emails that put the Establishment narrative into bad light makes it no surprise that diplomatic efforts have ramped up to neutralize Julian Assange. Given the Wikeleaks experience from 2010 we should expect to see diplomacy devolve into classic dirty tricks once the Cultural Purge begins.
It is interesting to note the difference in the treatment of email dumps based on whether it criticizes or supports the Establishment.
In the Panama Papers, hacked emails revealed mass tax avoidance schemes executed primarily by non-insulated political outsiders. Obama deemed it “important stuff” and called for international tax reform in the wake of the revelations contained therein.
But when the Podesta emails reveal ongoing, systemic, baked-in wrong-doing on the part of anointed political favourites, the bogeyman of “Russian state-sponsored hackers” are trotted out, hell-bent on throwing the election and Obama (as per the aforementioned quote) starts talking about “folks needing some kinda Ministry of Truthiness”.
The Post-Election Cultural Purge Will Make The Net-Split Inevitable
Let’s speak plainly here: Clinton is probably going to win. Barring some Brexit-style voter upset (still a possibility), Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next POTUS, simply because she was already anointed by the establishment elites years ago. If you aren’t aware of the many threads connecting the Democratic Party apparatus, the existing Executive, the upper echelons of the FBI (FBI dissenters called it “The Shadow Government”) and a complicit mainstream media all working together to deflect away anything that undermines her chances then you are either willfully ignorant or you are just asleep at the wheel.
If you are aware of all of HRC’s baggage but still want her to win, then it’s because the prospect of “President Trump” scares you more than the prospect of “President Clinton the 2nd” enrages you.
Once this most polarizing, no-holds barred election in history is over, there will be a cultural purge, targeting not only those who were ‘pro-Trump’ but also targeting those who were not anti-Trump enough. (So basically, Mark Cuban ends up head of the FCC and Peter Thiel gets audited by the IRS. Anybody syndicating Dilbert drops it).
While I wrote previously that neither Trump nor Hillary were friendly to free speech or an open internet, a Clinton II Whitehouse will continue the narrative of the hostile, foreign aggressor to deflect attention from the fact that the middle-class is still getting screwed by this sham of an economic recovery and will be even more screwed as things like TPP, “copyright reform” and other “freedom-sounding acts” will become law.
With technology being leveraged as a means of coercion, such as the idea of expelling Russia from the SWIFT payments system, it’s no surprise that Russia and China are moving to build their own payment clearing systems.
Now the US is ready to start a cyberwar with Russia over their alleged attempt at “hacking the election” which is quite possibly a lie (not like there isn’t any precedent for starting a war on a lie). A Cyberwar. Really? Will anybody other than me be surprised if that doesn’t end badly?
Since we’re heading into this kind of landscape, with the internet root firmly under US control (despite the largely ceremonial transfer of “control” to ICANN), it naturally follows that Russia, and any other rational actor who must realistically factor in a cyberwar when bucking US agendas will by necessity be looking to build out an alternative root as well. They would be stupid not to.
They will do so in anticipation of a day when the US might “rescind” their inclusion into the internet root for one reason or another. Or of the day they deem that it has become impossible to operate within the legacy DNS tree with any semblance of data integrity or security (or that they want to wall-in their subjects and surveil and control them to the same extent we will be here in the West).
When that day comes, the internet will split and fragment. It will probably be spun within the mainstream media here as some dirty trick enacted by subhuman foreign aggressors, or some great and just victory over Darth Putin. And people here in the West who should know better will believe “that’s it’s probably all for the best”.
Meanwhile, the internet as we know it, great while it lasted, will be over.