Adding "Internet Freedom" to the Internet Kill Switch Bill Is Putting Lipstick on a Pig

When we first started investigating the Internet Kill Switch Bill, we thought it was humorous that it was being reintroduced shortly after the Egyptian government killed the Internet there. Now, to fight the criticism, several tweaks and adjustments have been made, including changing the name from the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act to the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act.

We’re still not impressed.

According to Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, “It still gives the president incredible authority to interfere with Internet communications.”

Rather than sweeping legislation and unprecedented power, the Department of Homeland Security should have to go through normal channels. “The government needs to go to court and get a court order,” Richardson said.

The bill would give Homeland Security the ability to take command of privately owned computer systems if the President declares a “national cyberemergency.” In the 221 pages of the bill, the wording of what entails a “national cyberemergency” is ambiguous at best. Supporters of the bill disagree.

“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. 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.”

 

Why It's Still a Pig

This is not an issue of improper wording. This is an issue of abusable power. The government does not have the best track record when it comes to Internet freedom or technological decisions. Just two days ago, ICE wrongly took down 84,000 websites, many which were small business sites. The majority were personal and free of child-porn. Thousands of innocent websites were down for days because of a simple error and an extreme lack of understand of how the Internet works.

Unlike many of those against the bill, our stance isn’t that we don’t want the government to have the ability to protect us. We simply do not want the government and Homeland Security in particular to have the ability to dabble in things they do not understand without proper justification verified by expert sources.

Speed is at the center of the governments case for granting this power. They say that the need to react quickly overrules the need for due process. In the hours it would take to get a court order, terrible things can happen.

While that may be true, we would rather see an Act that improves the response speed but does so through a process. It may be more painful than sweeping legislation declaring that the President decides when things happen, but it can be done. There are more qualified people to make the decisions about cybersecurity.

Proponents would say that the President would have consulted with these people before making the decision. If that is indeed the case, it should be clearly worded as such in the act rather than leaving it up to chance. An independent expert analysis of any situation can be done quickly and can help to make the “Freedom” aspect of the act real. Otherwise, it’s a matter of “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best.”

We’ve already seen what that can do.

Written by Rocco Penn

A tech blogger, social media analyst, and general promoter of all things positive in the world. "Bring it. I'm ready." Find me on Media Caffeine, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
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