“Donald Trump has called for a shutdown of the Internet in certain areas to stop the spread of terror.” In a speech at the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Trump referenced the use by ISIS of social media as a recruitment tool. He recommended a discussion with Bill Gates to shut off parts of the Internet.
Trump believes that we’re “losing a lot of people because of the Internet” and that we have to go see a lot of different people, namely Bill Gates, that really understand what’s happening. According to him we have to talk to them about closing that Internet up in some way and that those who cry “freedom of speech” are foolish.
The notion that the Internet could be shut off is not completely off base. North Korea does it. Some countries have been known to shut off Internet service to their citizens in times of crisis. Egypt for example, restricted the Internet during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. China is the most famous example, forbidding most social networking sites as well as websites that deal with subjects the government doesn’t want its citizens to know about.
Most Western countries regulate the Internet very loosely and there are very few restrictions about what American citizens can do and say on the Internet. Child pornography for instance, is a forbidden Internet activity in the United States. Google is barred from linking to it and websites cannot display images of it.
A full-on “closing up” of the Internet in certain areas would be almost impossible. “There are so many players with so much redundancy built into the system, that the Internet is not just something that can be turned off with a wave of a magic wand.” Virtually every part in the United States has multiple Internet service provider options.
Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the other major broadband companies don’t overlap much. Telephone companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all provide the same service to roughly the same areas. Satellite companies also provide Internet to most parts of the country. “Removing Internet service in certain areas of the U.S. would require those companies to turn off their cell towers and fiber networks, and to restrict satellite access to people living in those regions.”
Shutting down Internet service in foreign countries could be even more difficult. Although the US works closely with ICANN, they do not control the global Internet. “Servers on foreign soil serve up the Web and other Internet services to people living abroad.” Foreign Internet infrastructure would need to be disrupted or shut down to turn off service, which is already a tricky task. It would become even harder if the countries and companies controlling those servers and cell towers abroad don’t cooperate.