A bill to provide a so-called Internet “kill switch” just won’t die. It should.The bill is being floated again by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), even though a previous version died in committee. The new bill has bipartisan support; it wouldn’t enable to actually kill the internet but merely shut down “critical infrastructure” in case of “a true cyber emergency,” Wired was told.
It still sounds like a terrible idea. Predictably, civil liberties groups oppose the bill and we have to agree.
We can’t think of a single case where using such a “kill switch” would make sense (if terrorists mount such a strong cyberattack that we have to use it, isn’t that still a win for them?) but we can think of many, many potential avenues for abuse. This has implications not just for free speech but also for free markets, as zillions of businesses (including this one!) depend on the internet directly or indirectly.
The timing is also terrible, given that Sen. Collins reintroduced the bill on the day that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut down Internet access in his country to quell dissent. We then pointed out that a government can’t actually kill the internet unless it has that kind of control over internet service providers.