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February 3, 2011

NEW INITIATIVE: Kill the “Kill Switch” Bill

Quote of the Day: “Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its internet, in the case of war, we need to have that here too.” — Senator Joe Lieberman

The “Internet kill switch” bill was promoted by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins in the last Congress. The bill would have granted President Obama the power to shut down much of the Internet in the event of a “cybersecurity emergency.”

The good news is that Congress adjourned before passing it.

The bad news is that, on the very same day Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak imposed an Internet blackout on his country, Collins announced her intention to re-introduce the bill.

But as the letter below indicates, giving the President this power is extremely dangerous and won’t protect us from cybersecurity attacks.

Please tell Congress to defeat this bill using’s Hands Off the Internet campaign.

You may borrow from or copy this letter . . .

I oppose the Collins-Lieberman bill giving the President a “kill switch” that can cut off most Internet traffic.

This bill . . .

* Authorizes the President to issue a declaration of a national cyber emergency to “critical infrastructure”
* Empowers the President to force the owners and operators of the infrastructure to implement the President’s response plan – including shutting down parts of the Internet
* Exempts the President’s actions from challenge or judicial review

This power isn’t even necessary to prevent or stop cyber attacks. Private operators of the Internet infrastructure already have an incentive to keep their systems safe. It’s called the profit motive.

As a report from Oxford and the London School of Economics reveals, the chances of a “cybersecurity emergency” are slim . . .

* Cyber attacks will be localized and have short-term impacts
* A successful prolonged attack is highly implausible, because it would mean the attacker knows methods and means not known to the information security community
* A “cyberwar” involving computer viruses and worms is highly unlikely, because these attacks can boomerang on the attackers

Giving the President this “kill switch” is also dangerous to the First Amendment . . .

* In a crisis, people need information that may be kept from them because of the kill switch
* Activists employing their free speech rights could be censored and punished because of the actions of “hacktivists”

Supporters of this bill claim that the President already has god-like power over the Internet under the 1934 Communications Act. But that’s not a good argument for a new law. You should instead repeal the old law and OPPOSE the Kill Switch bill.


You can send your letter using’s Educate the Powerful System.

And we encourage you to tell this to your friends. Follow us on Twitter and re-tweet:

James Wilson
Assistant Communications Director

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