February 20, 2011
A Senate proposal that has become known as the Internet “kill switch” bill was reintroduced this week, with a tweak its backers say eliminates the possibility of an Egypt-style disconnection happening in the United States.
As CNET reported last month, the 221-page bill hands Homeland Security the power to issue decrees to certain privately owned computer systems after the president declares a “national cyberemergency.” A section in the new bill notes that does not include “the authority to shut down the Internet,” and the name of the bill has been changed to include the phrase “Internet freedom.”
“The emergency measures in our bill apply in a precise and targeted way only to our most critical infrastructure,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said yesterday about the legislation she is sponsoring with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn). “We cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government finally realizes the importance of protecting our digital resources.”
But the revised wording (PDF) continues to alarm civil liberties groups and other critics of the bill, who say the language would allow the government to shut down portions of the Internet or restrict access to certain Web sites or types of content. Even former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak didn’t actually “shut down” the Internet: at least at first, a trickle of connections continued.