Barack Obama: God of the Internet?

 

Via Huffington Post:

A new Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman, proposes to give the president the authority “to seize control of or even shut down portions of the Internet,” according to CNET.

The authority granted to the government in the bill, known as the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA), has been likened to an Internet “kill switch.”

Should the president really be able to effectively shut down the internet?  While I generally support the ideas behind the President’s Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, the ‘kill switch’ legislation going before the Senate for a vote in the near future fills me with more than a measure of disquietude.

There are 5 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Well… the law has to apply no matter how much you like the guy in charge. I was not a big fan of domestic wiretapping either but I don’t really see a big distinction between allowing the president to listen to my phone or email conversations and having him shut down Web sites.

    Given Claire’s post about the use of social networking sites by terrorists, I can imagine a circumstance in which you would want the executive branch to be able to shut someone down. Of course I might like a judge to rule on probable cause in those cases too. But that’s just me…

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Contributor
    @DianeEllis
    Trace Urdan: Well… the law has to apply no matter how much you like the guy in charge. I was not a big fan of domestic wiretapping either but I don’t really see a big distinction between allowing the president to listen to my phone or email conversations and having him shut down Web sites.

    Given Claire’s post about the use of social networking sites by terrorists, I can imagine a circumstance in which you would want the executive branch to be able to shut someone down. Of course I might like a judge to rule on probable cause in those cases too. But that’s just me…

    One major difference between the government performing domestic wiretapping as opposed to shutting down the internet is the wide reaching effect that employing an internet ‘kill switch’ has.  Wouldn’t the president shutting down the internet impede global communications?  Should the president (regardless of whether I like him or not) have the power to interrupt the lives of millions throughout the world?  I certainly would not be a fan of China’s government deciding that they could arbitrarily shut down the internet…

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Contributor
    @JamesPoulos

    Is our desperation to avoid any real catastrophe is driving us into the arms of tyranny? As a blanket statement, that’s probably an exaggeration. But I raise it to observe that tyranny is itself a catastrophe. Yes: if somebody attacks the internet the way it appears that Russia attacked Estonia’s internet, it might be helpful to flip the switch for a bit. On the other hand, we’d be at the mercy of whichever czars and experts are charged with the delicate task of deciding when to switch the internet back on. Why must such a decision be made at such a high level? The answer always pertains to our worst nightmares. Well, a little bit of risk when it comes to our worst nightmares is very likely the cost of avoiding our regular ordinary mundanely bad nightmares, like a government that can turn the internet on and off, probably, soon enough, by clapping, without even having to get out of bed.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @RobertELee

    I don’t think it matters because I believe if the president orders the internet to be shut down it will be done without regard to law.

    That said, I don’t really believe the politicians have any idea of what it would mean to shut down the internet. I don’t know that large portions of the internet could be shut down without destroying our economy. I really don’t believe that most of the ranking policy makers can do much more than check their email, much less understand the consequences of arbitrarily shutting down large portions of the net. Yet I can see any cyber-attack on the US made immeasurably worse by well-intentioned, ham-handed action by those whose authority greatly exceeds their knowledge.

    This is without addressing the potential to use this authority to stifle political dissent.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno

    Shut it down.

    I need to get some work done :-)

    • #5
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.