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Wyden Disables Internet Kill Switch Bill

I’ve had quite a few people email me about the “Internet kill switch” bill that recently rode through the Senate Judiciary committee. Late on Friday, we got word that Ron Wyden was working to stop it.

A bill that critics say would have given the government power to censor the Internet will not pass this year thanks to the Oregon Democrat, who announced his opposition during a recent committee hearing. Individual Senators can place holds on pending legislation, in this case meaning proponents of the bill will be forced to reintroduce the measure and will not be able to proceed until the next Congress convenes.

Even then, its passage is not certain.

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) would have permitted a blanket takedown of any domain alleged to be assisting activities that violate copyright law, based upon the judgment of state attorneys general.

“Deploying this statute to combat online copyright infringement seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile,” Wyden said.

There didn’t seem to be any justification for obliterating a website over alleged copyright violations, especially when those could have been unintentional, incidental, completely legal and Constitutionally protected or not even carried out by the owners of the website. And such an authority to kill websites was ripe for abuse. This isn’t probably the last time something like this will have to be fought, but at least Sen. Wyden is in the corner of justice on this one.

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David Dayen

David Dayen