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:

WHAT TRUMP SAID

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."

WHAT TRUMP PROPOSES

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.

FIRST OBSTACLE: THE INTERNET ITSELF

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.

ROUTING AROUND OBSTACLES

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.

THE PROBLEM WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

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.

BANNED-ACCOUNT WHACK-A-MOLE

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.

THAT PESKY FIRST AMENDMENT

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.

KEEPING EXTREMISTS CHATTERING

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.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles wash into Florida bay

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TAMPA, Fla. -- More than 1,000 sea turtles stunned by unusually cold weather have been rescued from waters off Florida's Panhandle this month. U.S. Geological Survey sea turtle expert Margaret Lamont said cold-stunned sea turtles began appearing in St. Source
  • Facebook to emphasize 'trustworthy' news

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Facebook is announcing a second major tweak to its algorithm, saying it will prioritize news based on survey results of trustworthiness. The company said in a blog post and Facebook post from CEO Mark Zuckerberg Friday that it is surveying users about their familiarity with and trust in news sources. Source
  • Facebook to emphasize 'trustworthy' news via user surveys

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Facebook is taking another step to try to make itself more socially beneficial, saying it will boost news sources that its users rate as trustworthy in surveys. In a blog post and a Facebook post from CEO Mark Zuckerberg Friday, the company said it is surveying users about their familiarity with and trust in news sources. Source
  • Melted nuclear fuel seen inside second Fukushima reactor

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Friday that a long telescopic probe successfully captured images of what is most likely melted fuel inside one of its three damaged reactors, providing limited but crucial information for its cleanup. Source
  • Meteorite hunters find first fragments of Michigan meteor

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DETROIT -- Meteorite hunters who flocked to Detroit from across the U.S. after a meteor exploded are finding the fragments. The 6-foot-wide meteor broke apart Tuesday about 20 miles over Earth, NASA scientists said. Source
  • Zoocheck calls for strong message on ice-cream-eating bear

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An international wildlife protection charity says they hope the Alberta government sends a strong message as it investigates a central Alberta zoo that took one of its bears through a drive-thru for ice cream. The video, posted on social media this week by the Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, showed a one-year old captive bear named Berkley leaning out a truck's window and being hand-fed ice cream by the owner of the Innisfail Dairy Queen. Source
  • NASA bumps astronaut off June spaceflight in rare move

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has bumped an astronaut off an upcoming spaceflight, a rare move for the space agency so close to launch. Astronaut Jeanette Epps was supposed to rocket away in early June, and would have been the first African-American to live on the International Space Station. Source
  • Adolescence now lasts from 10 to 24, scientists suggest

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Growing up will take a little longer if a group of new scientists get their way. In a new opinion piece in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, a group of seven academics make a case for redefining adolescence from ages 10-19 to 10-24. Source
  • Hippo-y birthday to Fiona! The popular preemie is turning 1

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CINCINNATI -- Some days, it's more like being a Hollywood star's agent than a communications official for the zoo. That's what happens when your prematurely born hippopotamus becomes a global celebrity. The Cincinnati Zoo has a day of festivities ready for Fiona's first birthday party Saturday, and expect plenty more of Fiona in Year 2. Source
  • Booby-trapped messaging apps used for spying in Canada, U.S.: researchers

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An espionage campaign using malware-infected messaging apps has been stealing smartphone data from activists, soldiers, lawyers, journalists and others in more than 20 countries, researchers said in a report Thursday. A report authored by digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation and mobile security firm Lookout detailed discovery of "a prolific actor" with nation-state capabilities "exploiting targets globally across multiple platforms. Source