Government Internet Takeover Bill Returns

Aron Schatz
January 24, 2011

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It seems that the bill that would allow the President to selectively disable internet services to parties is coming back in the new Congress. Let's see if the new Republican majority in the house would allow a vote on it considering their rule that a bill must be grounded in the Constitution. The fact that this bill is even proposed is terrible. You can't give a single person (the President) the power to block communications. There is no judicial review! And what's to stop the government from declaring dissenting political views are illegal and block every single site they don't agree with. What are we now? China?


The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities. ...

Lieberman, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, said last year that enactment of his bill needed to be a top congressional priority. "For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," he said.

Civil libertarians and some industry representatives have repeatedly raised concerns about the various proposals to give the executive branch such broad emergency power. On the other hand, as Lieberman and Collins have highlighted before, some companies, including Microsoft, Verizon, and EMC Corporation, have said positive things about the initial version of the bill.

But last month's rewrite that bans courts from reviewing executive branch decrees has given companies new reason to worry. "Judicial review is our main concern," said Steve DelBianco, director of the NetChoice coalition, which includes eBay, Oracle, Verisign, and Yahoo as members. "A designation of critical information infrastructure brings with it huge obligations for upgrades and compliance."

In some cases, DelBianco said, a company may have a "good-faith disagreement" with the government's ruling and would want to seek court review. "The country we're seeking to protect is a country that respects the right of any individual to have their day in court," he said. "Yet this bill would deny that day in court to the owner of infrastructure."



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