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New York - AP EXPLAINS: Why Trump Can't Shut Down The Internet To Stifle ISIS, As Trump Suggested In GOP Debate

Published on: December 17, 2015 09:00 PM
By: AP 
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New York - Donald Trump says the government must work with “brilliant people” in Silicon Valley to keep violent extremists offline, even if it means shutting down parts of the Internet.

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.

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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.



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Read Comments (7)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 17, 2015 at 09:07 PM hashomer Says:

For all those 'strict Constitutionalists' out there, using the Internet is a form of free speech. You may have heard about that in cheder. Trump said he'd shut down the Internet, that he didn't care what rhe Constitution says when there are 'bad guys out there'. He is off the rails.

2

 Dec 17, 2015 at 11:02 PM Aron1 Says:

So what? Trump can just BUY the whole internet and then just let the good guys use it.

3

 Dec 18, 2015 at 07:55 AM HankM Says:

Trump is not technical, obviously, but this article serves to discredit him, when in reality, the idea is solid. Not that shutting down the internet per se is possible, but cracking down on ISPs and social media sites to prevent terrorism and on what's app to disable encryption, is possible, although certainly difficult. But that's why Trump said you need brilliant people to do it. Truth is, Trump is not capable of running this country, but neither is Obama and neither is Hillary Clinton. On the other hand you know Trump is a great manager and imho that's about the best we can hope for.

On the downside he's abrasive, egotistical, and shallow, and has shown some poor judgment, and that makes him unelectable. And as Sheldon Adelson says, that's the most important criteria for selecting a candidate this election and that's why I cannot back him.

4

 Dec 18, 2015 at 08:31 AM ComeOn Says:

Reply to #1  
hashomer Says:

For all those 'strict Constitutionalists' out there, using the Internet is a form of free speech. You may have heard about that in cheder. Trump said he'd shut down the Internet, that he didn't care what rhe Constitution says when there are 'bad guys out there'. He is off the rails.

The first Amendment or any part of the Constitution doesn't apply in Syria, Iraq, ISIL, ISIL, IS, etc. Please attempt to understand this distinction. As much as you would like to be a citizen of the world with no borders, we DO have a nation with a border and US citizens here who do have protections that we don't give to others.

5

 Dec 18, 2015 at 08:40 AM ComeOn Says:

The AP is wrong and is trying to obfuscate the issue so the populace doesn't see how wrong they are.
#1 of course nobody "owns" the internet (although the US Government did create it) but Trump was suggesting we HACK into their networks and shut them down, that's why he needs smart programmers. Otherwise we could've just flipped a switch like we did in Afghanistan from time to time since our military set up their network there and controlled it.
#2 This lie about first Amendment rights is being told so many times it seems like the AP is following the propagandist strategies of a certain Reich. The First Amendment ONLY applies to American citizens, AND only if they are not actively combating the US. Piers Morgan the weird CNN correspondent, for example, could and should be deported for saying we should seize guns since his speech is not protected as he is a UK citizen. Justin Beiber should have been deported for committing multiple misdemeanors during a DUI and vandalism spree in Miami, but never was due to the big 0 in office.

6

 Dec 18, 2015 at 09:14 PM JackC Says:

The Internet was designed to get a message though so that if any or many paths are blocked it just finds another.

7

 Dec 20, 2015 at 02:28 PM Anonymous Says:

Amazing how the liberal AP takes apart every word Trump says, but when it comes to Hilary (and Obama!) they cover everything Up!

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