Thursday, July 04, 2019

Splinternet and its effects on libraries

Splinternet and its effects on libraries

Instances of blocking some sites by nations due to security reasons have become common, like latest is SriLanka government blocked the citizens’ access of social media sites (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) after a major terrorist attack, According to Internet sovereignty law of Russia, the government has full control of what their citizens can see online and what not and China’s Great Firewall is also in this category.

What is Splinternet?

This phenomenon of breaking the internet into the nation’s internet is called Splinternet. The other term used for it is Cyberbalkanization. The borderless internet has shifted in a new direction, towards private, walled domains and now becoming Splinternet splitting into the internet, controlled by geographical boundaries. Filtering of internet causes filtering of ideas and beliefs, which can lead to fragmentation, polarization and extremism and thereby taking our rights of freedom to access of information and choices of information beyond certain beliefs of either cultural, social, religious, political, economic, and geographical boundaries.

Cyberbalkanization has become common due to the following reasons:

  • Social network sites like Twitter, and Facebook fuel the political upspring after any major events like earthquake, drought, etc.
  • Technology is also the reason for the change. Censorship tools deployed for this has become cheaper and more efficient than earlier. The technologies used by China for its Great FireWall are IP blocking, DNS (Domain Name System) injection, and TCP RST (Reset).
  • Moreover, the political will among government has increased to prevent social sites and others due to security and other reasons.
  • Governments want to control the content access to their citizens, according to their rules and preferences which are based on security reasons like cybercrime, illegal content, viruses, etc. 

In the context of libraries

Libraries play a vital role in the sustainable growth and development of a nation with the aim of accumulating and organizing of information resources and providing access to them. Internet as an information and communication tool help citizens become more informed, articulate and active in research and development, businesses and public affairs thereby contributing to the development and progress of a nation. As the library's motto is to provide access to the knowledge for all at a global level with no left content which is not in a reach of the user, the Splinternet will create problems.

  • It not only cuts off the nation from the rest of the world but also the knowledge that needs to be boundaryless for the development and progress of a nation. The technologies used by the countries for blocking some sites also cause unintended blocking of websites or content. Gradually the internet which is globally accessible by everyone is becoming limited to the information produced locally at the national level in terms of access and this will hamper the research and development of the people.
  • Libraries of now are hosting their content across borders to fulfill the needs of users. Open access Institutional repositories hosted by the libraries all over the world will also face the effects of the new rules on platform liability (European Union Copyright directives) imposed by the European Union recently. Eventually, it will affect the access to the knowledge to the users.
  • As the libraries are using social networking sites for public engagement, marketing of their services and sharing information with others on a wide level. The users at global levels will face problems of access to the information. The very basic nature of information is to spread with no boundaries.
  • Users engaged in the research on sensitive subjects of security, research on drugs and other illegal materials like explosive may not be able to have access to all types of information and earlier research instances due to internet restrictions in boundaries.
  • Censorship of certain materials due to privacy reasons represents the direct block on freedom of access to information. Censorship takes place when information resources – be they printed or digital sources, or audiovisual materials – are removed from circulation by a censoring authority.
  • Freedom of access to information has been the motto of the library community across the world. Freedom of access to information is the right of citizens to not only express any view but also to have access to the fullest range of views expressed in various information resources of libraries. 

In conclusion, the control of access to information on the Internet is, therefore, a key consideration. Access to information which is a right for everyone needs to be maintained by the efforts of the library community to fight with this phenomenon Splinternet.

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