Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Wired magazine that there was a need for “kill switch” legislation that “would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency.”
The legislation had passed her committee last year but with the new year and new Congress needs to be resubmitted. Its resurgence, interestingly, “came the same day Egyptians faced an internet blackout designed to counter massive demonstrations in that country.”
The legislation was contested by free speech groups and many Democrats last year but the conservative swing in the recent election now has bipartisan support.
“An aide to the Homeland Security committee described the bill as one that does not mandate the shuttering of the entire internet. Instead, it would authorize the president to demand turning off access to so-called “critical infrastructure” where necessary,” Wired noted.
Opponents such as the ACLU, the EFF, and the American Library Association believe such a legislation would erode citizens basic rights.
Wired pointed out that despite assurances in a congressional white paper that the “proposal prohibits the government from targeting websites for censorship “based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution” — “that’s exactly the same language in the Patriot Act used to test whether the government can wiretap or investigate a person based on their political beliefs or statements.”