Internet 'Kill Switch' Bill -- What Is This, Egypt?

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You can find Uma on the internet, too...
Looking back at the momentous goings on in Egypt of late, there are plenty of takeaways to go around. Here's one: Should the government have the power to sever society from the Internet? 

U.S. lawmakers are considering another attempt to push through a previously failed internet security bill that would essentially give the president an internet kill switch.

The discussion is an eerie reminder of what happened in Egypt a few weeks ago when former president Hosni Mubarak nixed major Internet service providers, keeping citizens from accessing the web and disrupting cell service for days. Already, free speech advocates across the nation -- which means here in San Francisco, naturally -- are criticizing the national efforts.


The controversial topic is sure to come up during the RSA conference this week in San Francisco. The event will draw thousands of leaders within the IT and computer security industry who will almost certainly opine on the subject.

Last year, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) introduced the legislation, which was quickly dubbed by the media and critics as the "Kill Switch Bill." His intent, as he has stated, was to defend the U.S. from cyberterrorist attacks by giving the president blanket authority to effectively shut down the Internet in the event of an emergency. The bill died in January when the new Congress was seated.

Critics slammed the legislation, saying it was too dangerous to give the executive branch that much power over the flow of information.

"Considering these networks are our modern printing presses, it indicates serious First Amendment right concerns," said Kevin Bankston, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that defends digital rights. "The hope is that with the Egypt situation and the scrutiny, it will result in a much better bill."

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