Free Press Rejects Bill Without Ban on ‘Kill Switch’

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Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

WASHINGTON -- Confronted by overwhelmingly negative public response, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have gone on the defensive about legislation they plan to reintroduce this year. The "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act" as introduced in the last Congress would create virtually unchecked federal authority over key portions of the Internet—“critical infrastructure”—in times of crisis. The bill as written offers a vague definition of what constitutes an emergency, and fails to create effective checks and balances.

The senators issued a statement on Tuesday offering assurances that they do not seek to create a “kill switch” over the Internet. Whatever the intentions, Free Press believes the reportedly broad, ambiguous language of the bill and its lack of safeguards for individual freedoms are deeply troubling.

Free Press Action Fund Campaign Director Timothy Karr made the following statement:

“It’s good to see the senators have heard the outcry from Americans troubled by this bill, but their promises that the bill won’t give the president ‘kill-switch’ powers aren’t very reassuring. The devil is always in the details, and here the details suggest that this is a dangerous bill that threatens our free speech rights.

“The last version of the bill didn’t expressly create an Internet kill switch, but it didn’t expressly exclude one, either. And to make matters worse, it only required that the president ‘notify’ Congress before taking action, and it specifically prohibited judicial review of the president’s designation of ‘critical infrastructure.’ In our constitutional system of checks and balances, that concentrates far too much power in one branch of government.

“We understand that protecting Internet communications is a vital government interest, but we’re troubled by the idea that the president could declare an emergency and shut down digital communications. In its current form, the legislation offers no clear means to check that power.”

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