There’s been a lot of WTF-news making the rounds recently. Try this one on for size: Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), at it again, proposed a bill last week that would effectively bestow the president with the authority to “seize control of or even shut down portions of the Internet,” writes CNET.
Bill S.3480, or the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), has been dubbed the Internet “kill switch.” According to the legislation, in the case of national emergencies, any private company that relies on the U.S. “information infrastructure” would be forced to comply with any orders (e.g. encrypt data, install a patch, or block web traffic) given by the president via the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), a proposed agency that would be created under the Department of Homeland Security. I guess American freedom only goes so far!
The NCCC will be tasked with monitoring the “security status” of Internet service providers, search engines, and software firms. These companies will also, if asked, be required to share information with the agency.
Though Lieberman included a provision in the bill which would prevent companies from being sued by customers over damages incurred during a cyber-emergency, Internet companies have nonetheless expressed their disapproval. In the same CNET article, tech lobby group TechAmerica warned of “unintended consequences,” saying that the White House could potentially derive “absolute power” over the web with this bill.
Redditors are pissed, to say the least. A top link on Reddit, titled “From all non-US Internet users; f#%k you Joe Lieberman,” has received over a thousand upvotes as of this post’s initial publication.
The idea is nothing new. Last year, Senators John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) drafted a bill that would allow the government to “order the disconnection” of parts of the web. During a congressional hearing last year, Rockefeller famously posed the question, “Would it had been better if we’d have never invented the Internet?” (Answer: No.), and expressed his support for Lieberman’s proposal. The last one didn’t go through, and neither will this.
Internet to Lieberman: We are too big for, yes, even the United States of America. The federal oversight required to effectively manage an Internet shutdown would be colossal. The financial consequences, including expenses for both government and business parties, unthinkable. Just think if the government shut down Wall Street, Reuters, or god forbid, 4chan: It’d be hell on earth!
You can track the bill’s progress inevitable fail on Open Congress.