Switching off the internet?

Here’s an idea from left field. US Senator Joe Lieberman, one time Vice-Presidential candidate for the Democrats (on the Al Gore ticket) and now an independent senator, is apparently introducing legislation that would allow the US President, in the event of an ‘imminent cyber threat’, to ‘take over our civilian networks’. This has been interpreted by commentators as a proposal to allow the US President to ‘switch off’ the internet.

The Senator seems to be slightly unsure (based on interviews he has given) whether he does mean this or whether he means something else, but it throws into relief again the question as to whether, how and for what purpose the internet should be regulated or constrained. There is a strong global culture now that sees the internet as ‘no man’s land’ and that does not accept that there should be any legal or governmental restrictions on it. Sooner or later there will need to be a formal international consensus on this, not least because governments in many parts of the world see the internet as a threat and may be tempted to censor or restrict it (as some do).

It’s not as if all reasonable people would always insist on a totally unfettered internet. I would know few, for example, who would argue that online child pornography should just be tolerated. So if there are to be restrictions at all, we need to be clear about what should drive these, and how far they should be tolerated, and how the overall free and democratic nature of the net can be preserved. It is time for these matters to be addressed explicitly.

Explore posts in the same categories: culture, law

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