With all the attention being paid to Egypt during this historic period of change, not enough has been made of the government’s disabling of Internet and mobile phone services. I previously blogged about what Egypt’s Internet traffic looked like after the initial shutdown, but now the last remaining ISP has been taken offline.
While that drama is playing out, it seems that another one is just getting started.
Wired reports of the bipartisan-supported bill introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This bill ,which eventually died as the new Congress was sworn in, would essentially grant the Government, in working with the private sector, the ability to turn off access to parts of the Internet it deemed necessary in the face of a “threat”. This bill is now being re-worked and prepped for re-introduction.
How soon we forget.
No, not what’s going on in Egypt under a repressive regime, but our own constitution.
The ACLU and EFF are up in arms about this legislation as they see it as potentially stifling to freedom of speech, and would result in censorship. It’s also the kind of thing that brought us hits like the Patriot Act. It’s a First Amendment argument.
But I argue that it is a Second Amendment argument.
The Second Amendment grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Not just for self defense, but to allow us to keep our own government in check, as “a well-regulated militia”. For the founding fathers, this was a way to ensure that Government couldn’t get too powerful (there was no way they could foresee the development of high-power weaponry, nuclear weapons, etc.).
While this conversation can easily become one about guns and ammo, it just as easily can become one about the power to organize and share information. Information is now just as empowering to citizens as arms once were. And nothing has facilitated organization, the sharing of ideas, and the spreading of information better than the Internet. If there was a “kill switch”on the Internet this would essentially remove something that we now take for granted. Access to information, to collaboration, to organization, to each other. Things that are necessary for a free and open democracy.
Let’s hope that the Internet remains a place where we can freely organize, and that we learn from not just the recent events in the Middle East, but from the lessons our founding fathers tried to teach us.