100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Obama to control the Internet? Not likely...

The Intertubes are burning out today with reaction to news of a bill introduced into the United States Senate by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia that would give the President the power "to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency."

In other words: Obama would take over the Internet. That's the chatter about it anyway.

Is such a thing even possible? Plausible? I'll suggest that it's more than okay to raise hell about the civil liberties aspect of such a notion, but in terms of technical capability I don't see how we should be anything more than cautiously alarmed about this. For one thing, the Internet was designed from the getgo to take a lickin' and keep on tickin' in the event of a catastrophic systemwide loss of communication (namely, nuclear war). It's too decentralized, far too distributed a network. I'm not saying that there wouldn't be a loss of some data traffic in the event that the occupant of the White House (whoever that might be) goes mad with power, but more likely than not, to paraphrase Princess Leia "the more they tighten their grip, the more systems will slip through their fingers."

Then there is what we have just seen happen in Iran: one of the most tightly-controlled regimes in the world. Even when that country's government tried to shut down all Internet traffic, people on the outside were busy setting up proxy servers and the like to keep the news, e-mails, photos and Twitter tweets of the post-election violence coming out to the rest of us. I'm apt to think that those of us in the United States would enjoy similar assistance should our own government try to put up the twenty-first century's version of the Berlin Wall.

Might anyone dare to purposefully halt the United States' Internet traffic and somehow manage to pull it off, they would subsequently be bringing down a huge chunk of the world's commercial economy in one fell swoop. Which I'm all too aware that some will claim that this would be one of the primary motives of such an act anyway...

But the biggest reason why I doubt Obama or any other President would seize overwhelming and absolute control of the Internet: it would most likely be the one thing that stirs the vast majority of Americans to storm Washington D.C. with torches, pitchforks, ropes and blistering-hot tar and proceed to break bad on damn near every elected official and bureaucrat in town. Threaten to take away people's Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and blogging and iTunes and online video gaming (the Gears of War players alone would raze D.C. into the ground) and porn and pirated music and movies and sports coverage and news and porn and political discussion and porn and everything else...

Who doesn't think that this would be the most politically suicidal act of modern American history?

If you wanna call your Congress-critter and tell him/her/it "hell no!" on this, then definitely do it. In fact, a call or written letter would be much better than an overly-convenient e-mail (trust me on this). Barrage the Capitol switchboard with angry but polite phone calls.

But in the meantime, be of good cheer: the Internet shouldn't be going away anytime soon :-)