India: Equivocational Balkanization Of The Internet

Last Updated: 29 January 2015
Article by Himanshu Sharma and Martand Nemana

Most Read Contributor in India, September 2016

"Necessity is the mother of invention", an old time tested adage, has proved true every time it was doubted. Not only this, as true as the adage, it has been proved every time an invention is made the unsatisfied human elements have influentially injected evil elements in order to exploit and create a vulnerable situation so as to threaten the trust, belief and motive of users upon the inventors and the invention. Horologists have always ascertained the nature of the evil to manipulate simple phases into a complex plethora of unending ambiguity to balkanize universal accord.


In the early 1970's when Vinton Grey Cerf processed the first packet data of information to be transferred from one computer to another it was the first step towards the establishment of what we today know as "World Wide Web" or "www." Molded by the ever evolving leaps and bounds the internet is what we see it as of today. Not only has the internet evolved as a backbone and lifeline of global information service and an instant data delivery mechanism but it also has created an entirely virtual e-world for the netizens of the 21st Century. With unmatched levels of speed and luxury internet has evolved a 'must-have' asset for every nation and specially the super powers who believe in concentration of power for establishing absolute monopoly. Soon after the general outset of internet for the common man, many different forces started establishing their internet supremacy and tried taking as much control of it as possible. With the increasing interest and evolutions which fueled the race to evolution of a technological dictator, before one could even realize a war had begun. Silently human desires percolated the minds of all netizens and just like it's every other valuable asset on the earth people started shattering it into small pieces and that when the concept of Balkanization of the internet came into existence.

Concept of Balkanization and its effects :

Balkanization as a term was allegedly coined in a New York Times interview with German politician Walther Rathenau, in 1918, which meant "Use of Geopolitical Power to enable division on grounds of religion/region/state, which are hostile and non-co-operative with one another". As a reflection of global balkanization the founders and pioneers of the internet and World Wide Web soon predicted a stage where all the nations shall strive to prove their supremacy and will initiate a war to gain control over the reins of the cyber world, just like it is in the real world. At the given conjecture in light of global incidents it not hard to foresee a breakdown, even in the virtual planet. Internet and law are notoriously riddled with jargon, and this is specifically the main element which makes the cyber-laws much more complex and arduous. The most menacing task is to prescribe the jurisdiction of an occurrence because unlike the real world the internet exists as an open network architecture which is beyond leaps and bounds of geographical impediments.

Over the past decade the internet has witnessed a progressive growth which has completely reconstructed the very essence by redefining the possibilities of the internet; from a mere source of communication between two computers the internet has evolved to what it is today, "the premier backbone of global survival", which is called as an "e-era". This gave birth to "Information Superhighway" which refers to the concept of merging all sources of information into a single retrievable "database". Every home, office, news medium, library, data bank, business, government agency and computer shall be connected to every communication device and an electronic link shall be established. Internet has also revolutionized the global marketplace, products which were earlier bound only to shops, are now being made available to the consumer at every corner of the planet which has not only provided a better and quality experience to the consumer but also has boosted employment as various sectors and steps are involved in completing the chain-link process and also immensely helped the companies move more inventory and hence developed the global markets by bringing it right at the doorstep. These advanced services not only deliver luxury but also create a dangerous scope for malicious elements to misuse the internet.

With the unmatched and untamed powers of the internet every citizen accessing the internet was given complete access to data available on the internet but soon as the malicious elements started to percolate and infect the system with their illegal activities, there started a need for making legislations which shall not only regulate and guide the internet but also provide a control to these evil elements. The need of such regulations was strongly felt after the Snowden Revelations of 2013. After the revelations in October 2013 relating to the documents of NSA and several media outlets thousands of classified documents, his leaked documents revealed numerous global surveillance programs; many of them run by the NSA and the Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. Two court rulings since the initial leaks have split on the constitutionality of the NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata. Soon after the revelations it has also been noted that many countries have started to strength their internet protection networks. This is what has been known as the inception of the proper balkanization of the internet. Though on the general level not much of any of these activates effect the regular general internet consumer but it does raise a serious concern for the government agencies. There have been many significant debates as to the applicability of the boundaries and its justification regarding its effects on the internet, it is important to consider the reverberations both on the government and also on the citizens both at national and international level.

Ways to keep a check on Balkanization:

Creating a level playing field for the use of internet seems a distant objective dream as most of the present nations do not belong to the same strata in terms of development. Striking a balance between data sovereignty and uninterrupted access to the individuals is a deciding factor for most of the nations. Bridging the gap between the developed and the developing nations is a challenge both in the economic as well as the technical factors. In some countries where internet serves as a medium for luxury and access on the other hand in some nations it's a tool for development and education. Creating a rift and divide will not only deprive the developing nations from the internet but also shall prevent them accessing their fundamental rights. In 2011 the United Nations declared the "Right to Internet as a Fundamental Right" as it comes under the ambit of "Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression" and "Right to Development" and "Right to Freedom of Assembly". The internet is also a major source of information and provides many educational opportunities and serves as resource for various researches and also as a data communication agent. Major strength of the internet being its unrestricted global access, balkanization shall further adhere to weaken and curb the potential of the system, which shall confine and shackle the scope of netizens. In the present world where overcoming the digital divide is a bigger challenge fragmentation shall further deteriorate the scenario.

Though attempts for balkanization started as early as 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court was already employing the word "balkanization" to partially explain why the framers of the American Constitution unified the country in the 18th century and relied on federal power and central authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 U.S. 390 (1941)

The case registers the first reference to "balkanization" by the Supreme Court: "The practical result [of local restraints that affect the conduct of interstate business] is that in default of action by us they will go on suffocating and retarding and Balkanizing American commerce, trade and industry."

H. P. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525 (1949)

It evoked the Duckworth decision and allocated the legal reasoning behind balkanization in the semantic field of libertarianism: "... fear that judicial toleration of any state regulations of local phases of commerce will bring about what they call 'Balkanization' of trade in the United States — trade barriers so high between the states that the stream of interstate commerce cannot flow over them. Other people believe in this philosophy because of an instinctive hostility to any governmental regulation of 'free enterprise'; this group prefers a laissez faire economy. To them the spectre of 'Bureaucracy' is more frightening than 'Balkanization'."

Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322 (1979)

The Court held that an Oklahoma statute violated the Commerce Clause, and summarized a goal of the Constitution: " order to succeed, the new Union would have to avoid the tendencies toward economic Balkanization that had plagued relations among the Colonies and later among the States under the Articles of Confederation."

The U.S. Supreme Court expressed its concerns with "balkanization" in almost thirty cases since 1941. In most occasions, balkanization was essentially a matter of economic policy resulting from the dual sovereignty of American federalism. In its modern connotation, some will cautiously allude to the ultimate importance of unity in the lower levels of the Internet architecture, but the technology literature is much richer than that and refers to "Internet balkanization" as:

(i) ways of segregating people online according to one's preferences;

(ii) different levels of infrastructure interconnection to the Internet;

(iii) fragments resulting from regulatory and cultural forces; and

(iv) a diplomatic agenda

"Balkanization" not only had come to denote the parcelization of large and viable political units but also had become a synonym for a reversion to the tribal, the backward, the primitive, the barbarian. In its latest hypostasis, particularly in American academe, it has been completely decontextualized and paradigmatically related to a variety of problems. That the Balkans have been described as the "other" of Europe does not need special proof. What has been emphasized about the Balkans is that its inhabitants do not care to conform to the standards of behavior devised as normative by and for the civilized world. As with any generalization, this one is based on reductionism, but the reductionism and stereotyping of the Balkans has been of such degree and intensity that the discourse merits and requires special analysis.


Balkanization as a phenomenon is inevitable, with the streaming time and tide the need for balkanization arises but in a much positive and useful manner, rather than creating meaningless boundaries for geopolitical stratification and benefits. On a global perspective making both the ends meet is a crucial need of the hour, where on one hand where some countries still striving at the very basics of food, electricity and resources others are getting supersonically advanced to the level of inducing a need to develop checks and boundaries for avoiding paradigm conflicts with the new emerging technology and services in the making. Fragmentation / Balkanization would only wider the divide and create a bigger rift than solving the need of the greater mass at large. Internet has percolated to so deep and has become so beneficial that not only will it be a building block in the advancements but also will swiftly guide thorough all the subtleties of the ever expanding globe. Legislations should be there to guide and then protect the basics rather than acting as a hindrance to the development.



The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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