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Could the UK Government shut down the web?

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Nick Harding
London Independent

March 8, 2011

A huge cyber attack or mass civil unrest would give Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt powers to shut down the web. But how is it even possible?

According to David Eagleman, a respected scientist and the author of Why the Net Matters, 21st-century technology obviates the causes that led past civilisations to collapse and because of this, he argues, that the web is crucial to our survival.

It has become such an intermeshed part of society that a world in which the internet suddenly goes down or is switched off is hard to imagine. The Hollywood-sized scenario reads like this: email, telephone and television services would go dark, media organisations become unable to gather and disseminate news, governments struggle to communicate emergency information, commerce grinds to a halt, shops run out of food, the transport system collapses and electricity supplies are be severely disrupted. Within months gangs of feral youths would take over the towns, cannibalising the weak and elderly, while citizens trembled behind barricaded doors, weeping over their useless copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

In Britain there are two pieces of legislation which give the Government power to order the suspension of the internet and, in theory, bring about web armageddon. The Civil Contingencies Act and the 2003 Communications Act can both be used to suspend internet services, either by ordering internet service providers (ISPs) to shut down their operations or by closing internet exchanges. Under the protocol of the Communications Act, the switch-flicking would be done by the Culture Secretary. In the eyes of the legislature, Jeremy Hunt is the man invested with the power to send us back to the dark ages.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 8:30 am





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