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As Mubarak’s regime completes its blackout of internet access in Egypt to quell protestors, the US discusses the renewal of a bill that could be used to shut down the internet here in the US.

The ''Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act'' was introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in summer 2010. Lieberman promised to bring the bill to the floor again in 2011. The so-called “Internet Kill Switch” bill is a measure whose explicit purpose is to prevent a cyber-terrorism attack, which may entail hacking into the private information and finances of ordinary citizens.

''My legislation would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency,'' said Senator Susan Collins, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Last summer, Lieberman argued that the internet could also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets.

Criticism has come from internet rights groups as well as the private sector whose activities are increasingly dependent on internet services.

''This has implications not just for free speech,'' Business Insider's Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes, ''but also for free markets, as zillions of businesses (including this one!) depend on the internet directly or indirectly.'' With a pending financial crisis amid Egypt’s political unrest, critics warn that any move to ‘turn off’ the internet could constitute huge financial losses to American businesses.

Then of course, there are concerns that US could just as easily do what Mubarak has done in the face of political dissidence. Internet rights and free speech groups  raise concerns on the implications this legislation may have on First Amendment rights.

''Nobody is taking it over to deliver a victory message any time soon,'' said PC Magazine's John Dvorak. “But the idea is clear. Control the Internet, and you control the masses.





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