Should our government have a “kill switch” to turn off cell phone communication?

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Well, if you live in California, that may soon be reality. Last week, the legislature in that state passed a bill requiring all new smartphones to include the ability to remotely render them inoperable. Although the measure was introduced as an effort to fight against smartphone theft, the Center for Democracy & Technology warns that this “kill switch” could also be used to disrupt protests.

The new law includes a provision that allows the government to shut down cell phone communication with court approval, and an “emergency” exception that allows officials to bypass the courts. During the Arab Spring in the Middle East, we saw how smartphones and social media connected protesters and strengthened a movement. And, the past few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri have shown how social media and cell phone cameras are just as important here in the United States.

No government should have the power to limit communications between its citizens, especially not here in the “home of the free.” Our Constitution guarantees the right of free speech and free exchange of ideas, and we must say “no” to any kill switch bill that threatens these important rights.



RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 29 weeks ago

Turning off cell phones by government is no different than turning off home and business phones by government. Both are a violation of our constitutional freedom of speech and should never be done.

Cubey's picture
Cubey 8 years 29 weeks ago

Get portable CB radios for use at protests. They could try jamming the waves but that might prove to be hard on all 40 channels in a major metro area.

kloro's picture
kloro 8 years 29 weeks ago

Read the financial press! The Bubble is about to burst. When it happens, the urban infrastructures will collapse. Food riots and lots more will follow. The 99% will become very p*ssed. That is why the elites are trying to strangle our means of communication.

Scarabus's picture
Scarabus 8 years 29 weeks ago

It's always a balancing act, isn't it? (a) The government could shut down communication to prevent bad people from coordinating efforts to do seriously bad things to residents of our nation, both citizens and guests. (b) The government itself could comprise the "bad people"; the government could be doing bad things to our citizens and guests.

Need a refresher? You might go back to right-wing General Douglas MacArthur's following the Repulican President's orders and leading the Army to destroy "Hooverville." Or even further back if you're inclined. But it might be better to start with Ferguson and work backward through recent events, not forgetting the Democratic Convention at St. Paul — where Amy Goodman (!) was jailed — the "Occupy" movement, etc.

Personally I'm a lot less worried about the wildly remote chance of being hurt by foreign terrorists, or even the much more likely chance of being hurt by domestic terrorists from the radical right, than I am of a Koch-owned puppet regime in control of the federal government's unbelievable technology, military weaponry, and technical know-how. In other words, forget the imaginary "commie" government "survivalists" fear, but focus even more intently on the kind of fascist government Germans, Italians, Spanish, etc. should have feared.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 29 weeks ago

scarabus RE#4 -- Bravo!

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 8 years 29 weeks ago

With all due respect, that's simplistic paranoia. First, there is no "99%." You can't understand our real situation without grasping that point. The middle class has maintained a hellish class war against our poor for years. Now the rich are doing to the middle class what the middle class did to the poor. There won't be any food wars. Those who become poor either learn to survive or die. Ultimately, the nation collapses, and nations always do.

UNC Tarheels's picture
UNC Tarheels 8 years 29 weeks ago

I say yes because why should thieves profit from stealing phones. If there is a kill switch then it makes the phone inoperable.

Thom should stop being paranoid worrying about things that haven't happened yet. But most importantly stop giving people ideas.

sheilach2's picture
sheilach2 8 years 29 weeks ago

This government has been violating our constitutional "rights" for decades now so what's so different about yet another violation of our "rights"?

We no longer have a "right" to peacefully protest against the government, we are instead forced into isolated "free speech zones" & locked into a cage, the police are free to tazer, beat, pepper spray, arrest & even kill peaceful protesters.

What this proposed law could do is to encourage people to buy new smartphones before the new, remote locking ones come out or to keep the ones they already have.

We are headed for very dire times & this government is preparing to put down by ANY MEANS any protest.

We are VERY EXPENABLE & don't any of you forget that.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 29 weeks ago

Technology will never be subverted as long as the few profit so much from the sales of it to the masses. Currently anyone can buy a microscopic video camera that is mounted in a pen, head band, tie, watch, or lapel pin and can be used to make high resolution videos without police being able to stop; or, even be aware of. I highly recommend that future protesters stock up on these little toys because in the end these videos will be far more powerful than whatever the cops aim at the protesters; and, there won't be a damn thing the cops and authorities can do about it. Game over!

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 29 weeks ago

My biggest concern over the government being able to turn off cell phones is that a situation may arise where, because of a protest in one place, the government turned off cell phones, while nearby someone is in dire need of emergency medical help and can't get it because their cell phone has been deactivated and they die because the government turned off their phone. It will happen, mark my words. And the gorvernment will deny any responsibility for it.

As far as the government is concerned, human life is a disposable commodity.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 29 weeks ago

I agree with everyone on this thread so far, except Tarheels.

Wake up, Tarheels. We ain't in Kansas anymore. - AIW

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 29 weeks ago

I never thought that this kill switch could cause a blanket cut off of a certain area. To do that, you would shut down the cell tower. To me, kill switch means your cell provider would call your number and turn your phone off. One phone at a time and only by your provider.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 29 weeks ago

This is a perfect example why we need limited government. Let the cell phone companies and ther customers worry about this so the government can focus on things like infrustuture and national security etc.

richinfolsom 8 years 29 weeks ago

The legislation is intended to render a phone worthless if it is stolen. I am sure the government is already capable of turning off our home, cell, and business phones. Even without a "switch," all it would take is to turn out the power at some key computerized switching stations.

Things would be dire if the government turned off our phones. People would take to the streets if they could tweet, text, or post to Facebook about their otherwise pointless and ill informed lives.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 8 years 29 weeks ago

I think we need to turn off Isis's cells and their entire communications.

Religion is like a ship with a broken rudder sailing in circles.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 29 weeks ago
Quote Howard Laverne...:Religion is like a ship with a broken rudder sailing in circles.

I had always been taught that religion was like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn't there.

Great, another religion-based controversy.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 29 weeks ago

RE: #16 and #17 -- You make a good comedy team.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 29 weeks ago

"We The People," need a kill switch! A few billionaires have over -thrown our democracy. I challenge anyone who disagrees. Obama is just fnnnn his time away until his independent wealth kicks's very clear the Fascists threatened his family....remember the dude that got past security at an official function a couple years ago? Well, that shut him down...he won't even speak out now.....! I'm not making this up... Anyway we need to re-OCCUPY NOW....... FFF the POWER...arbitrary power in the hands of a few nut jobs will lead to global disaster.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 8 years 29 weeks ago

Think Progress posted an article today about a Ty Turner of Charlotte, NC who was taken into custody for distributing political leaflets. The leaflets had political speech printed on them. U.S. Money does not have political speech printed on it but, according to The Supreme Court's fundamentalist five, it is intrinsicly political speech protected by the First Amendment. One modality has corrupted our political process while the other has not. Can you guess which is which? I'll bet if Ty was pushing money under those windshield wipers he would have been OK.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 29 weeks ago

Yeah CK, I get it. One set of rules for us real people, another for fictitious "people". Ain't it a bitch. - AIW

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 29 weeks ago

Orwell said best in 1984 - We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.

cybersniffer's picture
cybersniffer 8 years 27 weeks ago

This government has been violating our constitutional "rights" for decades now so what's so different about yet another violation of our "rights"?f

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