In 2019, 21 different countries, including the world's largest democracy, cut off internet service 122 times. But that could never happen in the U.S., right? This article, adapted from a talk by a member of the Federal Communications Commission, says, yes, actually, it could.
"In the age of the always-on Internet, what happens when a government decides to turn it off? For many people around the world, this is no longer a theoretical question. Last year, Internet service was shut off for roughly seven months in India’s Kashmir Valley, affecting 7 million people. ... Congo blacked out the Internet for 20 days after last December’s elections, preventing electoral observers from relaying information from rural polling stations. Ethiopian authorities shut down the Internet for three days last June to prevent student cheating on national exams. In January, there were outages in Iran during protests over the downing of a Ukrainian plane, following a week-long blackout last year after the price of fuel went up. ... [Under the 1934 law that governs "wireless communications" in the United States] suspending service is permitted not only in a 'war or a threat of war,' but merely if there is a presidential proclamation of a 'state of public peril' or simply a 'disaster or other national emergency.' There is no requirement in the law for the president to provide any advance notice to Congress. ...
"That’s alarming. Because if you believe there are unspoken norms that would prevent a U.S. president from using Section 706 this way, recent history suggests that past practice is no longer the best guide for future behavior. Norms are now broken all the time in Washington. It’s time for a front-to-back assessment of Section 706. We need a dialogue about what it means and what it should mean in the digital age. We need Congress to consider how this power squares with the Constitution and ask what role there should be for the legislative and judicial branches. While we’re at it, the United States should develop a formal policy on government-directed Internet shutdowns."
Blog sharing news about geography, philosophy, world affairs, and outside-the-box learning
This blog also appears on Facebook: