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The Big Red Internet Shutdown Switch

In unprecedented action in Internet history, we’re currently seeing how a country like Egypt has pulled the plug on the Internet to silence its people. They are preventing its citizens from taking to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (by blocking all routes) to share information about how the whole country is erupting in violence. It’s similar to what other countries like China, Tunisia and Iran have done in the past for censorship and now its coming to the land of the free, America.

A controversial bill giving US presidents power over privately owned computer systems during a “national cyber-emergency” and prohibiting any review by the court system is now circulating. Simply put, this bill is “The Big Red Internet Shutdown Switch” similar to the ones you see only on TV with one major difference, it’s the real thing. The proposed legislation by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins would question whether the Internet will remain an interference-free zone from the U.S. federal government.

With the Communications Act of 1934, all sitting US Presidents have general powers to shut down “any (communications) station or facility” but this bill would give specific powers to create a list of websites that be can shut down after declaring certain types of emergency. The bill in its current proposed form would impact facilities with “the potential for the destruction or disruption of the system or asset to cause a mass casualty event which includes an extraordinary number of fatalities” which is fine. However, it would also cover systems of “mass economic consequences” which would include financial, banking, airlines and search sites to name a few so it could include sites such as Google, eBay and Facebook.

If we give the government this type of power, how would we know where it begins and where it ends? We really don’t and the last thing we need is the federal government making decisions about which sites to shutdown without a court review. For example, a company may have a “good-faith disagreement” with the government and would want to seek judicial review. America has respected the right of the individuals and allowed them their day in court. This bill bypasses that!!

Photo Courtesy of Wlodi.