Under a new bill in Congress, the President would have the power to shut down the internet for up to 4 months in the event of an emergency. We note in this article that it is our view that no such bill is necessary and that the President could simply issue an executive order to do the same.
It looks like neither the bill or the executive order would be required to take action to shut down elements of the internet, as it is clear that traditional government intimidation will suffice to completely shut down large web hosting servers if the powers that be deem it necessary and put pressure on the internet service providers. According to the news site TorrentFreak, the government has moved to completely shut down all web sites hosted on the WordPress hosting platform Blogetry.
Although details are still very tentative, here’s what we know: Blogeter’s entire site has been taken down, and the company’s ISP is claiming that they had to terminate Blogetery’s account immediately after being ordered to do so by law enforcement officials, due to material hosted on the server.
This was not a typical case, in which suspension and notification would be the norm, Blogetery’s ISP said. This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server.
Although TorrentFreak speculates that this is part of a recent Homeland Security effort to take down file sharing sites, that doesn’t quite make sense: surely in that case Blogetery would have been asked to pull specific infringing blogs, not have the rug yanked out from under them.
No, the extreme response taken here by U.S. Authorities implies some sort of believed terrorist connection or child pornography ring, not just a handful of warez and MP3 blogs. Even so, though, unless Blogetery itself is suspect of harboring terrorists or child pornographers, it’s hard to condone this sort of extreme action that has instantly silenced over 73,000 users, the majority of whom are doubtlessly innocent of any wrong-doing.
The government, because of the actions of a few, has essentially ignored first amendment protections and punished citizens who are completely innocent of any wrong-doing.
The criminal web sites in question were hosted on Blogetry and were reportedly engaged in piracy of MP3 audio files, software applications and pornography. Rather than specifically shutting down these web sites, the government moved to eliminate 73,000 WordPress blogs that had absolutely no association with criminal activity.
This is akin to the federal agents raiding an entire neighborhood belonging to the same home owners association because one or two of the residents are suspected of dealing drugs.
It’s absolutely ridiculous on its face.
Can we blame Burstnet (Blogetry’s ISP) for immediately responding to government shut down requests? Perhaps. But, the fact that the government has unlimited resources probably scared Burstnet management into taking action against Blogetry, regardless of guilt or innocence. Most businesses, especially once they’re in the government’s sights, would buckle when faced with an unrelenting bureaucracy that could lock up their ability to make a living for weeks, months or years.
While Burstnet is an easy target for our criticism, the blame for the failure of due process under the law lies squarely on the shoulders of the US government.
This is a sign of the times to come and shows how easily elements of the internet can be shut down for any reason.
Hat tip Wheedle