As Egypt’s government seized control and cut off that nation’s access to the Internet last week, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman reintroduced the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010” legislation, commonly referred to as the Internet Kill Switch Bill. Although the timing unintentionally coincided with the events in Egypt, sponsors of the bill have no intention to abandon the legislation.
The bill is designed to grant the government power to disable the internet in the event of a cyber emergency. The Internet Kill Switch Bill expands the scope of the Communications Act of 1934, which authorized the government to eliminate access to communication. The legislation will empower the President with authority to work with Internet service providers to shut down access to critical infrastructure in the event of an emergency, although it is not yet clear what circumstances may prompt such an action. Proposed language precludes judicial review of the government’s designation of vital Internet and computer systems subject to the Act. Homeland Security would have the authority to establish a list of vital systems and assets that would be affected by the Bill.
Especially in light of the recent events in Egypt, however, there may be a greater likelihood that this legislation will meet stiff opposition in Congress. Moreover, even if it were to be passed in its present form, heightened public sensitivity to the issue would seem to guarantee legal challenges.