Fact check: Why Trump can't shut down the Internet

NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump says the U.S. government must work with "brilliant people" in Silicon Valley to keep violent extremists offline, even if it means shutting down parts of the Internet.

See Full Article

But what he's proposing isn't possible with today's technology. And even if it were, such a move would likely hurt more than potential attackers, and it would hinder the government's ability to keep tabs on them.

Here's a look at Trump's idea and why it won't work:


During Tuesday's Republican presidential debate, Trump said that because the extremist Islamic State group is using the Internet to recruit, the tech industry needs to find a way to stop them from doing that.

"ISIS is recruiting through the Internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet, and it was our idea," Trump said. "What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they're doing."


Trump went on to say that that he would be open to closing parts of the Internet that cover areas where the U.S. is at war or where IS operates, such as parts of Syria and Iraq. Even better, he said, would be to tap the brightest minds from the U.S. to infiltrate extremists' Internet gatherings and stay up on their activities - something U.S. intelligence agencies are already working at.

Trump isn't alone in calling on Silicon Valley's brainpower to figure out a way to keep violent extremists off social networks and messaging services. Democrat Hillary Clinton also has said the U.S. government and technologists should work together to block potential attackers from using the Internet to draw in new supporters.


For one thing, the U.S. doesn't control the Internet. No one does.

Because the Internet is a global network of networks that are all owned by different governments, companies or individuals, "no one person owns it," said Charlie Baker, vice president of product management for the Internet performance company Dyn.


Ferreting out extremist groups and kicking them off the Internet in the U.S. just isn't realistic, given how rapidly the fluid Internet grows and changes. And the U.S. just doesn't have the technical ability to cut off Internet access in a country it doesn't control. (Military action might be a different story, although it presents difficulties of its own.)

Baker added that people have a long history of finding their way around Internet restrictions whether it's democracy activists in China or Iran, or tweens looking to circumvent their school's firewall.


Groups such as IS have mastered social media for recruiting and spreading their message. Both Twitter and Facebook declined to comment on Trump's remarks, but say they don't tolerate posts that promote violence and aggressively remove such posts when reported by their users. Twitter bans accounts if they're linked to such activity.


But there's nothing stopping banned users from opening new accounts under different names, turning such efforts into the equivalent of "Whack-A-Mole."

So far, Internet companies have resisted pre-emptively blocking posts, partly because that would require them to make judgment calls about what constitutes terrorism - a definition that differs around the world.


Any attempt to filter out the online activities of extremist groups would inevitably infringe on the First Amendment rights of Americans, said David Greene, civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Even if you would accept the proposition that some of this speech is illegal, it's impossible to block just that out," Greene said. Any such move would probably also deny Americans access to information about what's going on in places such as Syria and Iraq, he said.


Greene notes that under the Constitution, the government is required to censor as little information as possible. But he added that this doesn't apply to people in other countries who don't have First Amendment protections.

The law enforcement and intelligence communities also have mixed feelings about shutting down terrorist chatter online. They say such chatter can help them monitor terrorist activities and could give them information needed to prevent a future attack.

AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this report.


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Mysterious free-roaming hippo captured in southern Mexico

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A local offers a hippopotamus which locals have named Tyson, a branch to snack on, in Las Chopas, Veracruz state, Mexico, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Serrano) Source
  • Ashes of Stephen Hawking to be placed in Westminster Abbey

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- The ashes of celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking will be interred at London's Westminster Abbey near the grave of Isaac Newton. A spokesman for the abbey said Tuesday the ashes will be placed there later this year at a thanksgiving service. Source
  • Google launches news initiative to support media, combat fake news

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Google is rolling out a news initiative aimed at supporting quality journalism by stopping the spread of fake news and helping publishers pick up more subscribers. The technology company says the $300-million initiative will adjust algorithms and use new services to make users see links from publications they pay for higher up in their search results. Source
  • Canadians vulnerable to politically-motivated Facebook data abuse

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Every like, share and click you perform on Facebook is already being used to target you with content and consumer advertising, but experts warn that activity can also be used to subtly (and sometimes dishonestly) influence your political beliefs, especially with a federal election looming next year. Source
  • Indian wildlife sanctuary sees jump in one-horned rhinos

    Tech & Science CTV News
    GAUHATI, India -- A tiny wildlife sanctuary in northeastern India has reported a jump in the number of one-horned rhinoceroses. All of the world's five rhino species are under threat from poachers who sell their horns on black markets, often in countries where rhino horn is believed to increase male potency. Source
  • Crash marks first death involving fully autonomous vehicle

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TEMPE, Ariz. -- A fatal pedestrian crash involving a self-driving Uber SUV in a Phoenix suburb could have far-reaching consequences for the new technology as automakers and other companies race to be the first with cars that operate on their own. Source
  • There was one male northern white rhino left, and we euthanized it

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NAIROBI, Kenya -- The world's last male northern white rhino, Sudan, has died after "age-related complications," researchers announced Tuesday, saying he "stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength." A statement from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya said the 45-year-old rhino was euthanized on Monday after his condition "worsened significantly" and he was no longer able to stand. Source
  • Elections Canada prepares to fight fake news, foreign influence in 2019 vote

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Elections Canada is erecting multiple lines of defence to fight fake news, cyber-attacks and foreign interference in next year's federal election campaign. Democracies around the world are grappling with new threats to democracy in the digital age, from foreign actors tampering with voting systems to the viral spread of disinformation through social media. Source
  • Are scientists male or female? See how kids draw them

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study shows more children in the United States are drawing female scientists than ever before, but as they get older they tend to draw more male scientists, meaning they draw what they see. The findings show kids "are in touch with their world" because more women have become scientists in recent decades, said Alice Eagly, psychology professor at Northwestern University and co-author of the research that assessed children's views of scientists. Source
  • Here's how to protect your privacy on Facebook

    Tech & Science CTV News
    As Facebook takes heat after it was disclosed that a U.K.-based company improperly obtained data from 50 million users, now’s a great time to look over your Facebook account’s privacy settings. But first, some background. Source