ACTA nothing new.


Under a World War II-era law, the US president appears to have authority to disconnect computer systems and servers from the internet in the event of a national emergency. But the next US Congress is poised to change that.

The law was passed in 1942. The Japanese attack on Perl Harbor had provoked fear of a foreign invasion of US soil, and Congress responded by giving President Franklin Roosevelt broad power to commandeer or shutter telephone and telegraph networks.

Nearly 70 years later, telegraph networks have disappeared, and the telephone is only one of many means of communication.

But although the 1942 law makes no mention of the internet – merely of “any facility or station for wire communication” – the Obama administration in June told congress it would cite it in an emergency.

It has not been tested in court, but experts say section 706(d) of the Communications Act could give the president wide-ranging authority to shut down key computer systems.

With typical Washington hyperbole, the law has become known as the presidential “internet kill switch”.

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