The Egyptian government recently shutting down Internet access in the country has spurred an argument we have heard again and again, but this time, in regards to a different medium.
The value of expression and the ability to convey your opinions, thoughts and interests are fundamental aspects of the Internet. Inherently, disabling the Internet is to disable an outlet that promotes and maintains the ability to be as expressive as you wish.
Egypt’s move comes in the midst of much protesting, making it impossible to neglect the possibility that the shutdown is to limit the flow of information coming out of the country — again, limiting the power and ability of expression.
This issue hits close to home, as our own government is debating the possibility of enacting an “Internet kill switch” of sorts. A bill that was introduced to Congress last year but failed to pass has been restructured and will go before Congress once again. This bill, called the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010,” would give the president the power to shut down Internet access nationwide with the ease of flipping a switch.
Masked with the purpose of enhancing the Homeland Security Act of 2002, this move could potentially bring most of America to its knees with a crippling blow not only to the Internet, but all “telecommunication systems, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries.”
This statement comes directly from the proposed bill, which would also create an agency to monitor information security, which encompasses “protecting information and information systems from disruption or unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification or destruction.”
Now, I know I have advocated for using the Internet less, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t use it at all. In fact, if my computer is open, I am probably on some sort of website — from blogs, to stores and the dreaded Facebook. Of course, I use it for the news too. It is safe to say that I, like many, depend on the Internet.
Basically, as much as I value communication face-to-face rather than screen-to-screen, I couldn’t live without the Internet — and I would be surprised if most of the country, and our campus for that matter, would be able to handle losing one of the best outlets of expression ever created.
What would we do without the Internet? What would we do without Facebook, or Scholar or online banking? Not to mention the numerous news sources, and the continuing trend of digitizing newspapers and magazines. Now that we are a predominantly cyberoriented culture, the potential of having the Internet shut down would destroy the country — perhaps.
I would like to believe that if this act was approved, and if this action was ever taken by the president or “any executive department, Government corporation, Government-controlled corporation or any independent regulatory agency,” that we would revert to a more simplistic form of on-paper communication, reading, writing, etc. But really, would we be able to? I doubt it.