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Addressing the Ultimate Form of Cybersecurity Control: A Multiple Case Study for the “Internet Kill Switch”–with Patricia A. Vargas-Leon


March 18, 2015
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
Philadelphia, PhiladelphiaPA United States
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National security is one of the reasons most often cited by governments to justify their attempts to control the internet infrastructure. This study focuses on a form of internet government control, known as “internet kill switch”, a shutting down of the internet.

The proposed research seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the factors that drive governments to shut down the internet. By conducting a comparative case-study, this study has two purposes:

  1. To challenge the belief that democracies do not consider extreme forms of control over the internet,
  2. To identify the underlying factors that prompt governments to shut down the internet.

A preliminary study identified that, between 2005 and 2014, one hybrid and one full democratic regime shut down the internet, and that two democratic regimes and one hybrid regime considered doing so. This study will conduct:

  1. A rhetorical analysis of political speeches following the Copenhagen securitization theory
  2. A cross-comparison analysis of case-studies that include democratic and hybrid regimes that shut down the internet, considered doing it, did not consider, or did not do it. This cross-comparison-analysis will contribute to identifying the reasons why similar regimes shut down (or consider shutting down) the internet.

The theoretical expectation of the study is to enrich academic literature surrounding internet shut-downs, an under-studied form of government control over the internet. From a practical point of view, this study expects to provide insights into the  national security discourse used to justify one of the most extreme forms of government control over the internet.

Patricia A. Vargas-Leon is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Her research interests are in information policy and internet governance, with a focus on issues such as national security and civil liberties, including freedom of expression and privacy. Her dissertation research explores governmental attempts and legislative proposals to control the internet infrastructure. Patricia has conducted research related to net neutrality legislation and the implementation of policies to monitor social networks.

Patricia was a consultant for the United Nations’ Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS).  She earned her law degree at the Pontifical Catholic University in Peru.  She specialized in International Law and Law of the Sea. She also earned her Master’s Degree in Library and Information Sciences with a focus in legal research from Syracuse University. Patricia’s legal research analyzes controversies related to sea boundary delimitations; in particular, her legal thesis looked at a case recently solved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) involving boundary disputes between Peru and Chile.