Internet "Kill Switch" Efforts In US on Life Support?

By  |  Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm

A plan about 16 months in the making to give the President powers to shut down the Internet may have just died an early death thanks to the events in Egypt. According to supporters of the bill, the purpose was to protect US interests from cyberattacks, although critics say it goes too far and could be a threat to free speech.

In Egypt, the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet in the country in an effort to curtail the organization efforts of anti-government protesters. That hasn’t worked too well, and Internet connections were restored in the country this morning. The effort seems to have shone new light on “kill switch” efforts here.

Senators behind the bill–Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Delaware’s Tom Carper–aren’t too happy with the Egypt comparisons. “We would never sign on to legislation that authorized the President, or anyone else, to shut down the Internet,” they said in a joint statement. “Emergency or no, the exercise of such broad authority would be an affront to our Constitution.”

The president already has the authority to shut down radio communications providers, but the laws are vague. The senators argue more specificity is need to prevent abuses of this power. Second, they point out that the president could only authorize such actions in the most extreme of circumstances — while still being mindful the action is not violating free speech rights.

Either way, Mubarak’s actions have put the three Senator’s efforts in a bad light. While the bill may have good intentions, I don’t see the necessity for such action. Plus if worse comes to worse, the government is going to do what it needs to do, law or not.

What are your feelings on giving the government such power? Is it a wise idea to have some type of way to shut things down in an attack, or is a case of government overreach? I’d be interested in hearing from you, and I’m sure there is going to be diversity of opinion on this one.



8 Comments For This Post

  1. Daniel Says:

    This is most certainly government overreach. Seeing as it’s basically the government shutting down a communication medium, it’s no different than trying to pass a bill for a nationwide phone line killswitch. It’s simply a ridiculous idea.

  2. Tim Joiner Says:

    I thought their bill was a good idea, frankly. As you said, current laws are vague and the President could literally shut down internet access in America like was done in Egypt and probably get away with it. Lieberman's bill offered very narrow circumstances in which the President could fiddle with the Internet, and set time limits on how long it could last without congressional approval. How is that not better than what we have now?

  3. The_Heraclitus Says:

    With or, without Egypt it was DOA in the House.

  4. Aurora Says:

    Rap News 4 on the Internet Kill Switch

    (5 and 6 is also about WikiLeaks related stuff)

  5. justcallmeben Says:

    Just like the government shouldn't have that power, neither should ISPs. The first lesson Egypt and Tunisia teaches us is we need to be vigilant about giving such absolute powers to the government.
    But it also teaches us what kind of power the internet gives the people when things go bad: it's an extremely powerful tool to organise protests and unite we, the people.

    This is why I think EVERYTHING should be done to keep the internet open and prevent anyone from messing with the free flow of information. And that includes net-neutrality.
    For example: if ISPs blocked or throttled YouTube or other video sites other than their own, it would have been a LOT harder for the protesters to get the images from the protests out to the world.
    And if they have the right to block YouTube, why not also facebook and twitter, if they choose to start up a similar service themselves?

    Without EXTREMELY STRICT net-neutrality rules prohibiting blocking or throttling of any kind, the door is wide open for such scenario's.

  6. The_Heraclitus Says:

    ISPs are private companies. If you want control of one, start your own.

  7. justcallmeben Says:

    Being a private company doesn't mean you can do whatever you want: just like phonecompanies cannot record your phonecalls or block you from calling, for example, a competing phonecompany (for example when you would want to switch subscriptions), the internet should be OPEN.

    Since you clearly view things differently, please tell me: why are you willing to be limited in your freedom of speech just to give an ISP the 'freedom' to take it from you?
    Because, please, be realistic: the internet has become the single most important way of communication aside from face-to-face means.

    If you still think net-neutrality should not be regulated in any way, please also tell me your views on the decades-old regulations on phone-companies not being allowed to record calls or block any number they want to. Should those restrictions stay or go, and why? What's the difference with net-neutrality?

  8. The_Heraclitus Says:

    No, it means being able to enter into contracts, or not. (who is talking about recording private phone calls? WEIRD)

    Anyway, even if the House passed this it would just mean metered rates again (remember the 90's?) as the ISPs recoup expenses and throttle hi-bandwidth activities.