When Censorship Holds Sway, Justice Weeps

Source: SMU Daily Campus.com – By Joe Richardson

The president should never be given unchecked control over the Internet

Governments have a curious habit of silencing the voices that don’t agree with them. For centuries the gods of tyranny basked in the incense of countless burning ideas as books were fed to the flames.

If President Obama is given emergency control of the Internet, in any capacity, it

U.S. President Barack Obama

would be the same dance with different music.

Presidential control of the Internet is not a new idea, but a current bill before Congress has renewed the debate. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 would give the president power to shut down portions of cyberspace.

The bill would also create both the Office of Cyberspace Policy and the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. It would give the president and new government agency broad powers over the Internet in case of an emergency involving cyberspace.

The Internet is quickly replacing print as the medium in which information is shared. If the government is allowed to interfere in the flow of ideas, in any way, democracy would then become just a word. An uninformed people are an unhappy people.

Some would argue that the reason for the bill is public safety and homeland security. They would contend that there is a vital need to keep the Internet secure and the bill is completely well intentioned. But remember, tyrants set their empires on pillars of good intentions and promises of a better tomorrow.

The supporters of the bill say that it will not allow the censorship of websites. They say that the bill would just be a measure to protect the Internet from attack. That is a valid argument but by opening the door to government control, the people risk forfeiting their free speech. What’s to stop the government from taking more and more control until they dominate what is said and whata is read on the net? Oppressive regimes always start small and grow until suddenly the voice of the people is crushed.

Look at Egypt. In an attempt to quell protests and unrest, Mubarak shut down the Internet. Rather than silencing the murmurs of unrest, the oppression only made the whispers grow louder and louder until the whole world was listening.

This is not to cast aspersion upon the current administration or to compare them to tyrants and dictators. This is to warn against legislation that could severely harm free speech. If the bill passes, it will only be a matter of time before America is plunged into George Orwell‘s worst nightmare.

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