Donald Trump gave us further reason to question his seriousness when he suggested at a speech in South Carolina Monday night that we may need to “close that Internet up in some way” to combat online recruitment by terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
It was a moment that was largely lost in the larger controversy Monday over Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, including tourists and it seems, U.S. soldiers returning home from duty. How would Trump close up the Internet “maybe in certain areas”? He told the crowd he’d “go see BILL GATES and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening.”
Putting aside the fact that the Islamic State’s goal is to bring about a Caliphate where life functions as it did in Medieval times, and shutting off parts of the U.S. from the Internet would actually seem like quite the victory for them… But fundamentally, Trump’s suggestion belies a remarkable ignorance of how the Internet works, and even who Bill Gates is. And I literally don’t even have time to delve into the obvious First Amendment issues, or even what shutting off Internet access would do to local economies across the country.
The Internet derives some of its power from the fact that it is quite redundant and is not directly under the control of any government or other single entity. While an Internet Kill Switch is something that Congress has discussed, it’s really just a theoretical concept at this point and actually shutting off internet access would require all sorts of Internet access or network service providers to comply voluntarily, which would be about as popular as asking any business to be a good sport and shut itself down voluntarily. Also, Bill Gates made his billions on software, not the Internet and networking.