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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Internet Kill Switch - Can it happen here?

What can an undemocratic government  do to control its people? If tear gas and rubber bullets don't work, take away their Twitter and Facebook access, of course. And if the people still don't fall into line, cut off their Internet and mobile phone access entirely. That's exactly what the Egyptian government did today when confronted with citizenry taking to the streets and demanding regime change. The surprising thing isn't that a corrupt, authoritarian regime would launch this kind of state-sponsored denial off service attack on its own citizens. Nor that it is willing to jeopardize its economy by cutting its businesses off from world markets. No, the thing that surprises me is that the U.S. government has plans for its own Internet Kill Switch.







The legislation was first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and the former has promised to bring it to the floor again in 2011. It isn't called anything as obvious as the Internet Kill Switch, of course. It is called the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act." Who could be against that? Anyone who's watching the news on TV today, that's who.






The proposal calls for the Department of Homeland Security to establish and maintain a list of systems or assets that constitute critical cyber-infrastructure. The President would be able to be able to control those systems. He or she would have ability to turn them off. The kicker: none of this would be subject to judicial review. This is just a proposal, mind you, but it certainly warrants concern. Particularly given the heavy-handed example being provided by Egypt
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