Will The Internet's 'Kill Switch' Kill Social Networks?

It's hard enough dealing with Twitter's Fail Whale on a daily basis, and the number of phishing attacks occurred on Facebook - now, we might have to contend with the possibility of both networks being turned off with one flip of a switch? When did Big Brother relocate to the States?

Rightly or wrongly, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut has been protrayed as a legislator that's been known for his obfuscation of the facts and ability to flip-flop on issues. But what is the rationale for proposing the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act" (PCNAA) which has been likened to an Internet "kill switch"?

The bill would require that private companies--such as "broadband providers, search engines, or software firms," CNET explains--"immediately comply with any emergency measure or action" put in place by the Department of Homeland Security, or else face fines.

If passed, the federal government would have “absolute power” to shut down the Internet under the terms of the bill and would literally provide President Obama with a “kill switch” to seize control of the world wide web.

Senator Joseph LiebermanSenator Joseph LiebermanLieberman has been pushing for government regulation of the Internet for years under the guise of cybersecurity, but this new bill pushes the envelope even further by allowing the feds the ability to silence free speech under the pretext of a national emergency.

CNET, one of the first news organizations to break this story a few days ago details the densely worded 197-page bill and the control that would be awarded to  a new agency called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC)..

Lieberman said this week that the enactment of his Bill needed to be a top congressional priority. "For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," he said. "Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals."

I am trying to wrap my head around the magnitude of any incident that would be that severe to allow the president to shut down the Internet? The 'absolute' power to do so would be akin, in my estimation for the president to declare war without the consent of Congress. Oh wait, we did have a president who already did that. But even so, what I'm understanding of this bill is comparable to a police state action that you might find in China or North Korea. Not in the U.S.

While the bill’s sponsors say it is intended to create a shield to defend the United States and its largest companies from the growing threat of cyberattacks, civil-liberties activists tell The Daily Beast they fear the bill could give the White House the ability to effectively shut down portions of the Internet for reasons that could prove to be politically inspired.

Wayne Crews, vice president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-enterprise think tank, said he believed the bill was so broadly worded that it might even allow the White House to take aim at whistleblowing websites that were believed to pose a national-security threat, such as WikiLeaks, in the guise of a “cyber-emergency.”

“That would be a concern of mine,” Crews tells The Daily Beast. “The way it seems to be worded, the bill could easily represent a threat to free speech.”

In a related post titled "Icelandic Law Seeking To Become Epicenter For Journalists's Safe Haven," its becoming more and more obvious why journalists, bloggers and publishers are concerned about governments seizing this kind of control in any country.  So much so, that Iceland has proposed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative to provide a safe haven for not only journalistic content, but journalists themselves to relocate to the country.

If this bill was in effect on September 11, 2001, does this mean we would have effectively lost our ability to communicate with anyone in the world via the Internet? And what about the social networks that provided us with real-time news content during the Iranian Election protests? If protests like that broke out in the States, would the president have the authority to shut down the Web?  Would Twitter and Facebook be shut down completely or like other news organizations be given a waiver to broadcast? If Lieberman and his followers see the Internet as such a threat during national emergencies, what the next step. Telephones? Television?

And while giving all this power to the president to pull the switch, it's a little curious to me why we haven't heard (as of yet) how Obama would weigh in on this issue? Does he really want that absolute power? And if so, why?

Please vote in our POLL below and let us know how you weigh in on this bill. All comments and feedback would also be appreciated.

Jun 18, 2010
by Anonymous

Jews want to control the internet

This is because the internet is exposing the Jew for 9/11, the financial crisis and Israel's ritual mass murder of the Palestinian Christian and Muslims.

Jun 18, 2010
by Anonymous

Here, Take My Rights

I cannot believe that 6% of people voted yes in that poll. I cannot fathom anyone, except world dictator hopefuls, wanting the ultimate in freedom of speech, the internet, taken away, ever. Even if you want to be a world dictator, hadn't you considered that Facebook would help you get there, and Google, too? The internet is our friend. Let's not be China, and while we're at it, let's stop selling the value of our currency to them. Just a suggestion....

Jun 18, 2010
by Anonymous


I hate Joe "will do anything for a vote" Lieberman... He should be ASSassinated.

Jun 20, 2010
by znmeb

Internet Kill Switch

I can't help thinking of history in this context. Remember Billy Mitchell and his predictions about Japan and World War II? There are Billy Mitchells today, warning that "World War III" will be fought not with air power and not in space, where there are treaties, but in cyberspace, where there are already "battles" in progress.

This is stuff we do need to be thinking about, planning for, talking about, legislating about, and so on. But in the end, it will take a "Cyber Pearl Harbor" before Congress will grant the President this authority. You aren't likely to see it emerge from the existing Constitutional and legislative processes.

My questions are

  1. Whether the USA can in fact "come back from behind" in a cyberwar like we did in World War II?
  2. Who the "enemies" really are? China? Russia? Islamic extremists? Scattered organized botnets with no state affiliations? All of the above? Is there an "Axis" like there was in World War II?
  3. How can we best defend our infrastructure? In cyberwar, is a good offense the best defense?