Law would allow President Obama to ?turn off the internet?

American legislation proposes net killswitch

Web users in America are wary of potential internet blackout as a ‘killswitch’ bill re-emerges on the same day Egypt shuts down internet access.

The bill had been considered previously, but expired due to the forming of a new Congress. Now back on the cards, the consequences of such a law are highlighted by the recent internet blackout in Egypt.

Prior to the blackout, people had argued the measures would be circumvented through the use of proxies and other security loopholes. However, the Egyptian law allows for the web to be shut off at the ground level – the ISPs. With no data coming down the phone lines, people in Egypt simply have no access to the internet.

The American legislation is proposed as a counter-measure against civil unrest, fronted by the Republican Senator Susan Collins, member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, there are worrying parallels with Egypt.

Given the amount of international web enterprises operating within the US, with Facebook, Apple and numerous email providers being prime examples, the exercising of such a killswitch could have world-wide conseqeunces.

Sceptics believe a knock-on effect could threaten business communication as well as social networking, and ultimately cause harm to economies around the globe.

Over 20 groups oppose the bill including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy & Technology. In a letter to Congress, the groups wrote: “It is imperative that cyber-security legislation not erode our rights”, calling for an assessment into the “impact of cybersecurity on civil liberties.”

However, during an interview with the official White House website, President Obama said: “there are certain core values that we believe are universal, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, people being able to use social networking.”

Back in Egypt, some determined internet users have gained access through antiquated dial-up gateways in Cairo and other cities.

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