Internet Blackouts/Censorship Could Happen in the United States

Published: May 16, 2016 17:28pm EDT
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Technology

Please Note: This article was updated May 16, 2016 @ 05:28pm EDT

 

An in-depth article is featured over at The Atlantic concerning Iraq shutting down its Internet to prevent sixth-graders from cheating on exams. Yes – you read that right. The government of Iraq has decided that shutting down the countries Internet for hours at a time is no longer to stem the tide of political revolutions, deny access to social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, or to even silence particular individuals they feel are critical of the government.

No, no – sixth-grade test takers are a completely new threat to the stability of the country now.

According to Dyn, an Internet analytics company, beginning three days ago there have been patterns of three-hour long Internet blackouts occurring. 

Human-rights groups have stated this is the second year in a row the Iraqi government has ordered Iraqi telecom companies to shut down access to the Internet. This, of course, is all being done to prevent cheating by students during exam week.

While government ordered Internet blackouts are becoming commonplace in the Middle East, doing so to simply prevent 10- and 11-year-old children from cheating on a test seems disproportionate, at best, to what the country is trying to achieve. Then again, the Iraqi government crackdown on the Internet, free speech, and total censorship in some instances could simply be its way of reminding Iraqi citizens, and the world, who really holds all the power in the country.

Advocacy group Access Now has recorded 12 government-mandated Internet blackouts in the world in 2016 alone, thus far. It begins to make one wonder – how likely is something like this to occur in the land of the free, the United States of America. The answer may shock many, but be unsurprising to most at the same time.

The United States government does reportedly possess an Internet “kill switch”, which would shut down all cellphone and Internet service during ‘emergencies’. However, the U.S. government would determine what exactly constitutes an emergency in any given situation.

In January of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The petition in question sought to force the Department of Homeland Security to release details of this “kill switch” protocol. EPIC has been waging this fight against the U.S. government since 2011, which is when government officials disabled cellular service at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in San Francisco during a peaceful protest.

What sparked the protests was a homeless man named Charles Hill being shot and killed by a BART officer on July 3, 2011. During one of these protests, BART officials – in concert with local government officials – shut down cell phone service inside four transit stations for three hours in an effort to prevent anyone on the station platform from sending or receiving phone calls, messages, or other data that would have provided much needed information to the general public about the days events.

It can sometimes be difficult to imagine living in the ‘freest’ of free countries in the world that your rights are so easily trampled on. It’s easy to look to the Middle East and Arab countries in the world and believe they hate freedom and enjoy oppressing their citizens. However, it can just as easily happen in America, the land of the free, when we as citizens drop our guard and continue to sign away our rights and freedoms under the guise of security and protection from terrorism. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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