Splinternet – Thematic Research

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The traditional internet is increasingly under threat from the ‘splinternet’, the term used to describe the fragmentation of the internet into competing technospheres. Increasingly, nation-states are imposing restrictions, increasing the pressure on the internet governance system established decades ago. On the one hand, liberal democracies are divided over safeguarding the global, open internet, prioritizing digital sovereignty. But on the other, the centralized model followed by autocratic regimes challenges the open internet by reshaping global norms and standards. Also, following the start of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict in February 2022, Russia erected digital barricades, widening the gulf between competing digital spheres.

Which are the key regulations in the splinternet market?

The key regulations in the splinternet market are data privacy, antitrust, misinformation, taxation, copyright, and fintech.

Data privacy

The global data privacy landscape is fragmented into different regimes, increasing uncertainty for businesses facing various distinct compliance requirements. Ad-funded internet platforms have been forced to rethink strategies due to a shifting regulatory environment underpinned by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But regulators will not be appeased and will continue to scrutinize these companies, especially as they move to the metaverse, where a huge amount of personal data will be processed. Tech companies that make money selling hardware, software, and services instead of users’ data will not face any particular risks.


Antitrust is a less mature regulatory area than data privacy. The last few years have seen various regulators attempting to adapt traditional antitrust rules to the digital economy. The tech hardware sector, characterized by significant fragmentation, will not be under scrutiny by antitrust regulators. However, regulators’ increased scrutiny over Apple’s antitrust practices, particularly its App Store, risks weakening its competitive position in favor of other prominent hardware vendors, such as Samsung Electronics and Sony.


Misinformation, including online harm, is an elusive area of regulation, with legislative attempts sparking controversy in different jurisdictions. Action to mitigate misinformation must be balanced with protecting the right to freedom of expression, allowing individuals to hold opinions and receive and share ideas without state interference. As legislation develops, we will see a widening gulf between democracies and authoritarian regimes over freedom of expression. The boundaries between regulation and outright censorship are becoming blurred in non-democratic regimes.


Tax avoidance rules see the greatest level of coordination among countries. Big corporations exploit gaps and mismatches in international tax rules to shift profits to low or no-tax jurisdictions. Governments and international organizations have stepped up efforts to coordinate these policies in the wake of the global financial crisis, shrinking public budgets, and growing public outcry.


Though uncoordinated and limited in reach, copyright initiatives are gaining momentum as legislators try to make tech platforms legally liable for what appears on their websites. From Canberra to Paris, regulators have been forcing Big Tech to pay publishers for the snippets of news content that appear on their online platforms. Overall, regulators will push legislation recognizing publishers’ right to compensation from internet platforms for reusing their content. France is the first EU country to have transposed the copyright directive into national law.


Big Tech has joined pure play fintech companies in challenging traditional banks. Tencent, Google, and Apple have popular payments services and have gradually expanded into other financial services such as lending, insurance, and wealth management. Fintech is increasingly moving under the regulatory radar, and scrutiny will only ratchet up in the face of new developments, such as the growing use of cryptocurrencies.

Which are the key technology trends impacting the splinternet theme?

The key technology trends impacting the splinternet theme are China’s Great Firewall, New IP, AI surveillance, cybersecurity, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, Web3.

Which are the key macroeconomic trends impacting the splinternet theme?

The key macroeconomic trends impacting the splinternet theme are India, Russia, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG). With the entrenchment of autocratic regimes into their own narratives backed by domestic media, the splinternet will see corporate bosses increasingly forced to divest from companies and countries run by autocrats. The Ukraine invasion and Russia’s increased isolation are good examples of the types of ESG issues investors can face for holding stakes in countries linked with human rights violations.

Which are the key regulatory trends impacting the splinternet theme?

The key regulatory trends impacting the splinternet theme are China Standards 2035, EU standardization Strategy, Russia’s Sovereign Internet Law, Big Tech, and obstruction of justice.

Which are the key players associated with the splinternet theme?

Some of the key players associated with the splinternet theme are Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Huawei, Intel, Meta, Telegram, TSMC, Twitter, and Yandex.

Market report scope

Key regulations Data Privacy, Antitrust, Misinformation, Taxation, Copyright, and Fintech
Key technology trends China’s Great Firewall, New IP, AI surveillance, cybersecurity, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, Web 3
Key macroeconomic trends India, Russia, And Environmental, Social, And Governance (ESG)
Key regulatory trend China Standards 2035, EU standardization Strategy, Russia’s Sovereign Internet Law, Big Tech and Obstruction of Justice
Key players Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Huawei, Intel, Meta, Telegram, TSMC, Twitter, and Yandex


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This report provides an overview of the splinternet theme.

  • It identifies the key trends impacting growth of the theme over the next 12 to 24 months, split into three categories: technology trends, macroeconomic trends, and regulatory trends.
  • It includes analysis of multiple data sets, including patents and social media trends, alongside a timeline highlighting milestones in the development of the splinternet.
  • The detailed value chain identifies four competing ideological models and looks at their impact on the internet infrastructure and regulation worldwide. The four models are the open model, normative model, authoritarian model, and hybrid model.

Reasons to Buy

  • Increasingly states are drawing national boundaries around the internet, spurred by competition to assert their authority. The costs of this resulting fragmentation are both economic and social. Digital fences across jurisdictions risk creating barriers for companies with global operations. Divergent regulation and compliance requirements create entry barriers for businesses. The divide between techno-ideological blocks adds to economic uncertainty and increases the threat to cybersecurity and supply chains.
  • This report provides an invaluable overview of the splinternet and its potential impacts.

Alto Analytics
China Mobile
Deutsche Telekom
Epic Games
KEB Hana Bank
La Caixa
Le Figaro
Le Monde
Les Echos
Lloyds Bank
New York Times Co
News Corporation
Nikkei (Financial Times)
Nu Bank
Palo Alto Networks
Rubicon Project
Samsung Electronics
Seven West Media
TD Bank
US Bancorp
Warner Bros. Discovery

Table of Contents

Executive Summary


Thematic Briefing


Data Analysis

Value Chain


Sector Scorecards


Further Reading

Thematic Research Methodology

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