Our world is dominated by the Internet in every possible way. We leverage its convenience by conducting financial transactions, booking plane tickets, ordering food, entertaining ourselves and of course, socializing. In such frenetic and busy scenarios, it is quite the achievement when a person (or phenomenon) becomes a huge and overarching Internet sensation, because it is not everyday that one can BREAK THE INTERNET.
The premise behind breaking the Internet is to draw such an overwhelming interest in a topic or event that literally everyone with connected device notices it. People begin paying attention to news like what their favorite celebrity had the audacity to wear (or not wear), and more important matters—like business, job duties and world affairs—are ignored. In Tech circles, sudden bursts of Internet traffic can have technical consequences. What happens when users rush (all at once) to access a certain web page and encounter a race condition, or inadvertently cause a network or system crash? Or when a shared resource, like a website, is suddenly unavailable due to a malware attack?
Whether a socialite causes hysteria with risqué photos, or hackers successfully take down authoritative websites (like what happened to GoDaddy.com in 2012), such events are described as breaking the Internet. And while we are lucky there hasn’t been anything to actually break the Internet, it doesn’t stop our web-obsessed world from harping over whether the Internet could possibly implode, shut down or disintegrate one day. What would life be like without this fascinating technology that has made society so different from what it used to be? Believe it or not, there are plans afoot on the parts of governments and regulatory bodies to control the Internet in such a manner that it can effectively break it, or, manipulate the way we’ve come to use it.
Governmental Policies that Break the Internet
In 2019, the European Parliament approved a sweeping Internet copyright law that severely curtails the ability to upload content. Many, including the founder of Wikipedia.org, Jimmy Wales, vehemently opposed this piece of legislation. This is in addition to the General Data Protection Act that was rolled out by the European Union (EU) in 2016.
And then there’s the United States which has issued its own set of rules for how the Internet should work. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 sought to curb unsolicited emails (much to everyone’s welcome). Bills surrounding Net Neutrality, on the other hand, haven’t been as well received. Service providers like Comcast and Verizon have led the charge in gutting open Internet protections, which would allow them to legally throttle web traffic. If there were ever an example of breaking the Internet, this would certainly be it.
In normal parlance, the “Break the Internet” phrase carries an innocuous connotation of something becoming outrageously popular online. The entertainment industry, in particular, uses the phrase frequently in hopes that TV and movie trailers will catch on. By investing enough in marketing and advertising, they hope a buzz will be created around their offerings, which will eventually translate into revenue and profits.
On the other hand, entertainment icons like Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj have rightfully earned the title of “Internet breakers” thanks to their racy photos and performances. The pressing question, however, is whether the Internet, at large, will actually crash one day. Experts say that it won’t, but some believe there is some wisdom in heeding to online superstitions (like typing “google” in Google’s search bar and potentially causing the World Wide Web to unravel). Google has debunked this claim several times, but you never know!