Internet Kill Switch Engaged
A bill that grants the President the power to kill the internet is to be re-introduced in the U.S. Senate. Ironically, renewed interest in restricting the internet came on the same day Egyptians faced an internet blackout in an attempt to stop the massive demonstrations in the country. The bill is spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Collins said the purpose of the bill would be to stop cyper threats before they cause damage and it “would not give the president the same power Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is exercising to quell dissent”.
However, it isn’t clear how the government would know when a cyber attack was being carried out, or why the private sector would need the government's help to protect itself.
A Homeland Security committee aid said that the bill “does not mandate the shuttering of the entire internet” but would allow the President to order shutting off access to “critical infrastructure.”
The ACLU, the American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy & Technology, and about two dozen other concerned groups banded together to write an open letter against the idea.
The open letter stated, “It is imperative that cyber-security legislation not erode our rights,” The groups share the concern that this potential law could be used to censor the internet.
A congressional white paper on the proposal says the government is prohibited from targeting websites for censorship “based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” But critics point out that this is “exactly the same language in the Patriot Act used to test whether the government can wiretap or investigate a person based on their political beliefs or statements.”
Image by Mike Licht on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons LicensingTweet