As someone who spends a good deal of both my working and recreational hours on the internet, I’ve grown quite fond of it. It has been the greatest communications device ever created, the ability for humanity to share information on such a scale helps to make the world much smaller for important ideas to travel. However, this freedom is at odds with the society the modern world finds itself in. Free speech, information, and ideas are not congruent to the ever-strengthening police state of Empire. Were people able to freely exchange these things we might actually have an emancipatory world where defenders of the status quo would be unable to continuously divide us amongst ourselves or retain their power. Should it be any surprise that congress is considering a bill to insert a “kill switch”, controlled by the president, to our access of the internet?
The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (link), proposed by our freedom-loving friend and Obama confidant Joe Lieberman, essentially gives our president the power to turn off all or some of our internet access. I suspect that this new piece of legislation’s proposal directly after the WikiLeaks release of video showing journalists and civilians being murdered by soldiers is no coincidence. If new inconvenient information were to be released to the public that may be threatening to the power of Empire, Obama would then be able to simply order it shut down. Some will point out that the president already has this power according to the 1934 Communications Act, Section 706, specifically part C, which states:
Upon proclamation by the President that there exists war or a threat of war, or a state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency, or in order to preserve the neutrality of the United States, the President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of national security or defense, may suspend or amend, for such time as he may see fit, the rules and regulations applicable to any or all stations or devices capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations within the jurisdiction of the United States as prescribed by the Commission, and may cause the closing of any station for radio communication, or any device capable of emitting electromagnetic radiations between 10 kilocycles and 100,000 megacycles, which is suitable for use as a navigational aid beyond five miles, and the removal therefrom of its apparatus and equipment, or he may authorize the use or control of any such station or device and/or its apparatus and equipment, by any department of the Government under such regulations as he may prescribe upon just compensation to the owners.
While it can certainly be interpreted this way, the PCNAA is just reaffirming it in more modern language and defining of fines. This bill specifically takes advantage of the lack of security our nation’s networks have and uses it to further limit our ability to freely disperse knowledge. The PCNAA bill would require that private companies–such as “broadband providers, search engines, or software firms,” via CNET (whose write-up of this is excellent) “immediately comply with any emergency measure or action” ordered by the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (a new branch of the Department of Homeland Security, which would be created by this bill), or receive fines.
Of course, the bill is receiving praise from those who have previously tried to give the president authority to shut down parts of the internet like Senator Jay Rockefeller, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins – who has signed on as a cosponsor of Lieberman’s PCNAA. Liberals no doubt will find some way to defend Rockefeller’s commendation of Lieberman’s latest crusade to limit the rights of the people he is supposedly elected to represent. Normally, I feel like I’d probably encourage friends and readers to contact their representatives to stop this, but I just don’t have it in me anymore. We aren’t going to change the minds of technically ignorant people whose only source of information on things like the internet are their corporate overlords. I think this issue will specifically require us as citizens to simply know more and continue to innovate in ways that they just simply don’t understand.
While things like Net Neutrality have been preserved (for the time being), the internet is too much a resource exploitable for the good of humanity for Empire to allow it to remain in its current state. The bills discussed above prove that it’s only a matter of time before information on the internet is more controlled than it is now and its accessibility limited.