Dr. Twitter”like:” Or, How I learned to stop updating my status and learn to love the Internet blackout

Plenty has been said about the role of the Internet in the Egyptian uprisings this past week. I’ve been eagerly eyeing it up. At first, I wondered if social media’s role wasn’t being overstated to add a little novelty to this latest political calamity. But, when Egypt took the steps to shut down the Internet within the country, it became clear that either the role of social media was real or that the Egyptian government thought it was real.

My perspective gives me little original to add to the conversation about Egypt. I just keep thinking of all the communications research that could be done on the topic and all that future fights for democracy that could learn from this example. It gets my blood boiling with excitement. And, as an added trinket, I especially enjoyed the bottom of this story that mentions that demonstrators also rallied to help catch thieves who damaged some of Egypt’s relics. They want freedom, but they’ll be reasonable about it.

But, I have been turning a critical eye toward the articles that discuss the possibility of a “kill switch” in the United States. This Slate article, titled with the HORRIBLE pun “Block like and Egyptian,” argues that it would be logistically difficulty to replicate the effectiveness of the Egyptian shutdown because there are so many ISP providers across this great land. Jim Crowley tells the Wall Street Journal that if the government called ISP providers here, most would ignore the order. I’m not entirely sure I believe that.

Even with all these techies that say the “kill switch” is unlikely here, I can’t help draw the comparison with 9-11. That day, the president grounded all planes. There are lots of air carriers, but one order to a federal transportation agency brought air traffic to a halt. It seems logical enough that one order to a federal communication agency could bring all Internet traffic to the same stop.

This MSNBC article brings up the infrastructure aspect: Blowing up the ports that house all those cables connecting continent to continent, like the one in Miami. Again, it calls it highly unlikely. But who called terrorist flying planes into tall buildings likely?

If the legislature doesn’t address the possibility of a shutdown of the Internet in its national conversation before it happens, I fear citizens might not like the answers when it happens.

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