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December 1, 2012

Syrian Government shuts down Internet, no doubt some US lawmakers would do the same here

On Friday afternoon Syria suffered a widespread loss of Internet sans a few off shore networks. It looks like someone flipped off a switch, if there really is such a thing.
No Internet for you!

The Syrian government, well known in the world for its civil rights leaders and progressive women's rights programs, explained they had nothing to do with the black out and that it was the targeted work of terrorist organizations. Despite well documented proof of Syria's involvment with Internet surveillance and malware campaign (starting in 2011), Syria's Minister of Information explains:

"It is not true that the state cut the Internet. The terrorists targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off,"

Forgive me if I am not convinced, especially after the comical reports from Saddam's Mininter of Information as the Iraqi army was getting bitch slapped by our troops:
"I repeat, there is no US presence in Baghdad."
Half of Syria's population is below the age of 19 so I can see why the despotic government would want to keep the Internet away from this age group. If the teenagers were to discover the vast amount of porn that is freely available, I think the frustration levels of the Syrian people would drop and perhaps they would stop joining/aiding and abetting terrorist organizations. The unemployment level among the youth of that country is above 20%. No jobs, no access to Spongebob episodes, no porn, no Hulu- what else is there to do except perpetrate terrorism? Hulu might be stretching it considering they have no broadband and Internet access is by dial up. For crying out loud, we need to get these people out of the Stone Age.

The United States enjoys a relatively open Internet thanks to our First Amendment right to free speech. However, government intervention is certain when social deviants are allowed an autonomous and anonymous reach on such a global medium. The first restrictions to free speech were deservedly aimed at protecting children though child pornography laws. It wasn't long before copyright infrignement laws followed.

There have also been proposals for the widespread limitation of Internet access as well. From Wiki:

The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 (S. 3480) is a bill introduced in the United States Senate by Joe Lieberman (Independent Democrat, Connecticut), Susan Collins (Republican Party, Maine), and Tom Carper (Democratic Party, Delaware) on June 10, 2010. The stated purpose of the bill is to increase security in cyberspace and prevent attacks which could disable infrastructure such as telecommunications or disrupt the nation's economy. The legislation would create an Office of Cyberspace Policy and a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. ".

Sounds pretty harmless until the bill was given a deep dive. The Lieberman bill was widely criticized by the media as the "Kill Switch" bill because of the clause that would allow the President to enact "emergency measures" in the case of a large scale cyber attack. For once, the ACLU actually was on the side of good when it protested this bill saying that the definition of a cyber attack was too broad and what was a Critical Communications Infrastructure (CCI) and what is not. They also took issue with Preserving Free Speech in Cybersecurity Emergencies. Bravo, ACLU, bravo. You still suck overall, but thank you for coming to our aid on this one.

Amusingly enough, Lieberman cited a similar program in China as justification for our adoption. It should come to no surprise that the Democratic leadership would use a communist controlled country with a brag sheet of civil rights/liberties violations as thick as Oprah's ass to justify their position. What other countries censor the Internet? There's China, Syria, Iran, North Korea, a few states of the former Soviet Untion and Cuba. Do we really want to add the United States to this list?

There are many cases of successful censorship on the internet that mostly dealt with file sharing sites, however even personal sites can become targets if the content is disturbing enough. Facebook has come under fire numerous times for their slow response times in dealing with pedophilic members. Again, this type of behavior is neither protected, nor should it be, by the First Amendment. However, the key policy issue with an Internet Kill Switch is whether it violates our consitutional rights to restrict access to or completely block the Internet. Another consideration is if we even need this type of government control and what effect it would have on the United States if the Internet was shut down for even a day- the costs are staggering.

A new bill, the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act of 2011, is under consideration by the U.S. Congress and was sent to the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies on March 25, 2011. It hasn't received much attention but now that the election is over and Obama has nothing to lose, I would expect this to resurface at some point in the next 4 years.

Here is what internet censorship looks like. This is a screenshot of someonie in the United Arab Emirates trying to access Flickr (yes, Flickr):

I don't like this form of government control and I don't want it.

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