The World Wide Web becomes many national networks

The world is falling apart into nation states – and the Internet is also being contained and portioned. Geoblocking is digital anti-globalization.  Six years ago, the Internet was proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s a nice idea, but it seems that people have become a little more cautious in the meantime. The Net can do a lot, perhaps even bring peace. But in the end it is a tool of humanity, and it has other plans at the moment.

Wars in the Middle East, millions of refugees, disintegrating states, ideologues and extremists, bad hairstyles in the US election campaign – the world has a few problems too many and apparently a few idealists too few. People all over the world have embarked on a trench warfare to protect their allotment gardens. If you had to invent a word for that, it might be geoblocking. There is a solution:

This content is not available in your country

But geoblocking has been around for a long time, it’s an unspectacular technique that allows you to use the World Wide Web a little less world wide: “This content is not available in your country”. The sensational idea that everything can be seen and distributed by everyone at any time is not something that some powerful players on the net find sensational.

This is understandable on the one hand: Anyone who can make a business with his product anywhere in the world wants to be paid for it everywhere. So anyone who has looked at House of Cards on its parent platform Netflix so far and tricked a little for it must now throw his coins into the parking meter of the German rights holder Sky: Netflix is now serious about geoblocking.

House of Cards is part of the “Soft Power” of the USA

Trade and business is one of the great driving forces of geopolitics. The other is the power of ideas. “Soft power” is what foreign policymakers call the power of ideas or cultural persuasion of a state or a group. The soft power of the USA includes the House of Cards series, which depicts the game for power quite authentically. Now there is also certainty here: in American serial culture, business interests beat soft power.

Other players on the information market have been providing certainty for a long time – thanks to geoblocking. Authoritarian states like China don’t even try to control every single content on the net. They prefer to control the access gate right away.

But the leadership in Beijing is not alone. European nations also protect their national TV markets and networks from the entertainment and information storms of their EU neighbours, above all to avoid complicated disputes over rights and to subject the markets to national rules. The European internal market is far away – which is why the EU Commission is working on a paper to regulate geoblocking or perhaps even ban it altogether.

The net is being encircled and portioned

It gets really complicated when the gigantic circulating pumps of the global information and knowledge streams like Google discover geoblocking as a tool for asserting one’s own interests.

  1. Anyone in Germany who claims his right to forgetting and has a malicious web link deleted from the search engine’s memory will find the limits of his efforts beyond the barriers in Colmar.
  2. Forgotten is only national.
  3. In the end, the net is a mirror of global trends, an organism that breathes like the nations of the earth. And that is why it is not surprising that the retreat from globalization and the subordination to the power of the nation state are also translated on the Internet.

Soon after the last Internet idealists have ordered their Netflix subscription, the Net will continue to be contained and portioned. Whether Frank Underwood from House of Cards invented this perfidious trick remains unanswered.