A pair of U.S. Representatives — one from each party — are proposing a law that would limit the President’s ability to shut down the internet at will. That may not strike you as an imminent threat, but federal police disappearing protestors into unmarked vans probably didn’t either, until a couple months ago. Let’s keep an open mind.
The President has the power under the Communications Act’s Section 706 to order the shutdown of some communications infrastructure in an emergency. While this was likely intended more for making sure official phonecalls could get through in a national emergency, it’s possible that today it could be used as a measure to tamp down on protests and civil unrest, as we’ve seen in authoritarian regimes around the world.
The Preventing Unwarranted Communications Shutdowns Act, from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), doesn’t remove this ability, but adds