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

  • Man is charged with flying drones to bring drugs from Mexico

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN DIEGO -- A 25-year-old U.S. citizen has been charged with using a drone to smuggle more than 13 pounds (6.1 kilograms) of methamphetamine from Mexico by drone, an unusually large seizure for what is still a novel technique to bring illegal drugs into the United States, authorities said Friday. Source
  • Eclipse to have big impact on California power grid

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When the moon passes in front of the sun during Monday's eclipse California will lose enough solar energy to power more than 1.5 million homes, a figure that underscores the state's growing reliance on energy from the sun. Source
  • Asian carp found near Lake Michigan got past barriers

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Officials say an Asian carp found in a Chicago waterway this summer apparently got past an electric barrier system intended to prevent the invasive fish from reaching the Great Lakes. The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee says an autopsy shows the 4-year-old male silver carp originated in the Illinois/Middle Mississippi watershed. Source
  • Demand for eclipse glasses outpaces supply

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Ali Van Orman is still looking for specialized glasses to protect her family's eyes during Monday's solar eclipse because she never counted on demand totally eclipsing supply. She tried to buy a coveted pair of solar eclipse glasses for herself and two children from Amazon back in July, but the hot commodities wouldn't have arrived in time. Source
  • Reduced speeds for right whales prompts surcharge for Oceanex Montreal-St. John's route

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Due to new rules brought in by the federal government in an attempt to protect an unusual number of endangered right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Oceanex has introduced a temporary surcharge for vessel operations between St. Source
  • NASA launches last of its longtime tracking satellites

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA launched the last of its longtime tracking and communication satellites on Friday, a vital link to astronauts in orbit as well as the Hubble Space Telescope. The end of the era came with a morning liftoff of TDRS-M, the 13th satellite in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network. Source
  • NASA marking 40 years since Voyager spacecraft launches

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Forty years after blasting off, Earth's most distant ambassadors -- the twin Voyager spacecraft -- are carrying sounds and music of our planet ever deeper into the cosmos. Think of them as messages in bottles meant for anyone -- or anything -- out there. Source
  • Digital vigilantism after Charlottesville: Get ready for more naming and shaming

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In many ways, last weekend's rally in Charlottesville, Va., was a chilling throwback to an era most people had hoped we'd moved on from, one in which racists were emboldened to march in the streets, denouncing the lives and rights of others through violence and angry chants, yelling, "White lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us. Source
  • Solar eclipse myth-busting: Facts and fiction behind nature's stunning event

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Have you heard that it's safe to look at an eclipse through sunglasses? Or that radiation during one could be dangerous for unborn children? Don't believe it. Solar eclipses aren't your run-of-the-mill event: while they occur about once every 18 months, the same location may not experience one for many years. Source
  • Hundreds of birds injured by kites on Indian independence day

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW DELHI - The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings. Workers at the Charity Birds Hospital see it happen every year - mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. Source