US Internet 'Kill Switch' Bill to be Reconsidered

Dennis Faas's picture

The situation in Egypt is dire. The government, which is facing enormous protests has turned to shutting off communications, most notably the Internet, as a way to silence dissension. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gone on record admonishing the Egyptian Internet blackout, calling it a senseless attempt to bring order to a country at the cost of basic democratic rights.

Could an Internet Blackout Happen in the United States?

While most Americans have viewed the entire debacle as something that simply couldn't and wouldn't happen in the United States, some political pundits believe the U.S. government blocking nationwide Internet access is certainly plausible.

On a web blog entitled "Death + Taxes," the author DJ Pangburn recently reminded Americans of Joe Lieberman's controversial bill entitled "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset" -- legislation that would provide the President with powers to protect systems considered national assets during an emergency.

Pangburn suggests that with such legislation, it's possible that users in the United States could face an Internet blackout similar to that of Egypt, though the circumstances would be exceptional if the idea ever came to light. (Source:

US Gov't Says Free Speech Will Be Protected

United States government representatives have since assured the public that this kind of measure would not limit basic freedoms, such as free speech. But the very idea of limiting access to the world wide web seems by nature a limit of free speech.

Furthermore, many critics note that the definition of a national emergency is quite flexible and far reaching. For example, would an assassination attempt on the President or another terrorist attack on a major U.S. city warrant cutting off access to the Internet for a few days or a week?

Internet Kill Switch Idea Not Dead Yet

Certainly, the implementation and use of an "Internet Kill Switch" is highly unlikely, primarily because of the impact such a move would have on the US economy.

Lieberman's bill, which called for the creation of a secretive cyber security head office run jointly by the White House and Homeland Security, expired before Congress after passing through the Senate. It's been said the bill will be re-introduced soon. (Source:

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