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

  • Russian supply ship launched to International Space Station

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MOSCOW -- An unmanned Russian cargo ship lifted off successfully Wednesday on a supply mission to the International Space Station. A Soyuz-U booster rocket carrying the Progress MS-05 spacecraft blasted off as scheduled at 11:58 a.m. Source
  • Maple syrup producers blame climate change for production drop

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DURHAM, N.H. -- New Hampshire's maple syrup producers say they are feeling the impact of climate change, as winters become warmer and frigid nights so critical to their business become fewer. Producers joined climate experts and Democratic U.S. Source
  • Roblox: Child protection agency warns parents after reports of lewd chats on game

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is warning parents following reports of sexually suggestive messages being sent through the popular Roblox children's gaming environment. Roblox is a user-generated gaming environment where children are encouraged to create adventures using their avatar, play games and connect with friends in a multiplayer environment that claims to more than 44 million active users. Source
  • Selfie paradox: People want fewer selfies on social media but keep posting selfies themselves

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Approximately one in every three photos taken these days is a selfie. Google estimates Android users take 93 million selfies a day. But despite their popularity, new research suggests most people wish there were fewer selfies online. Source
  • Canada's grasslands: 'most endangered, least protected ecosystems'

    Tech & Science CBC News
    more stories from this episodeHow two friends fought to be legal 'co-mommas' to a 7-year-old boy — and wonCanada's grasslands: 'most endangered, least protected ecosystems'Anti-Islamophobia motion could stifle free speech, say criticsFull Episode Source
  • New-gen HoloLens virtual reality headset could be coming in 2019

    Tech & Science CTV News
    While Microsoft's first HoloLens virtual reality headset has been available to buy since last year the U.S. tech giant could now be working on a more advanced second-generation version that's more geared up for the consumer market, according to specialist website Thurrott. Source
  • 'Just delete it': Mother's app warning after witnessing lewd act on son's phone

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A Quebec mother is warning other parents about the potential dangers of a popular video chat app called live.ly. Samantha Theoret told CTV Montreal that she witnessed an adult male performing a sexual act in a chat room on the app on her 10-year-old son’s phone on Friday night. Source
  • D.C. panda fans bam-boo-hoo as U.S.-born cub leaves for China

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The National Zoo in Washington is saying a final goodbye to its panda cub Bao Bao. The zoo is packing up the American-born panda for a one-way flight Tuesday to China, where the 3-year-old will eventually join a panda breeding program. Source
  • Panda express: Bao Bao on nonstop flight to China

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The National Zoo in Washington has said its final goodbye to its panda cub Bao Bao. The zoo packed up the American-born panda Tuesday for a one-way flight to Chengdu, China, where the 3-year-old will eventually join a panda breeding program. Source
  • 'Cosmic shoutout' for Thunder Bay; asteroid now bears name of Ontario city

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The city of Thunder Bay, Ont., is getting a "cosmic shoutout" from the International Astronomical Union, which has accepted a proposal to name an asteroid after the city. "It's tremendously exciting", said Maureen Nadin, the chair of the exoplanet naming committee for the Thunder Bay Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Source