Donald Trump’s series of tubes

At last night’s debate, Donald Trump promised, when asked by Wolf Blitzer, that he would “close down” some areas of the Internet in order to prevent the Islamic State from using social media to recruit and inspire terrorists:

The question was in reference to Trump’s proposal, from last week, to bring together “great people” from Silicon Valley to figure out how to disrupt, in more ways than one, the online capabilities of terrorist organizations. As he said at the time:

We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some ways…Somebody will say, “Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.” These are foolish people.

When asked by Wolf Blitzer if he was still open to shutting down parts of the Internet last night, Trump said yes, adding, “I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody…I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet. Yes, sir. I am.”

Of course, as with the rest of Donald Trump’s public policy proposals, it’s hard to decide whether to go after the part of the idea that’s blatantly unconstitutional, or the part that’s blatantly unworkable.

This time, let’s go with the part that’s blatantly unworkable.

For starters, Donald Trump seems to think that the United States owns and has full control over the Internet — he keeps calling it “our” Internet. The Internet isn’t ours. The Internet is a global network. Individual countries can try and block certain sites, but it’s not like the President of the United States can pull a lever that shuts off an Internet valve somewhere in Pakistan.

It isn’t a big series of tubes. We’ve been over this.

Others have been slightly more generous to Trump by interpreting his proposal as a call for closing down parts of the Internet within the United States. Then, though, it isn’t at all foolish to be worried about “freedom of speech” because the only way to shut down the domestic Internet in a way that would actually successfully prevent high schoolers from coming into contact with Islamic State propaganda is to shut down a lot of the Internet. As The Daily Beast reported today, after talking with some folks who know a thing or two about online censorship:

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Daniel Calingaert, the executive vice president of the human-rights organization and government censorship tracker Freedom House, says Trump’s plan is one that has been enacted only by authoritarian governments.

“What he is calling for is what authoritarian governments like China and Iran and Saudi Arabia do. It is not feasible,” he told The Daily Beast. “Even those governments don’t rely on tech alone to close off the Internet. They abuse laws to pressure ISPs, web hosts, and individuals to take down websites and comments.”

Basically, Trump’s plan would entail the complete dismantling of private online media. Google, Facebook, Twitter would either be under strict state control or would be nationalized outright. If the question was put to Trump in that frame, he would almost certainly say that isn’t what he’s talking about.

But that’s because he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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18 Responses to “Donald Trump’s series of tubes”

  1. 2karmanot says:

    On a roll today FLL…good thing!

  2. FLL says:

    Vladimir Putin endorses Trump!

    No, that’s not a headline over at The Onion. It’s true. Horrifically, hilariously true. Birds of a feather. Der neue Führer, Hair Trump, and Stalin’s reincarnation, Vlad the Impaler, have signed a non-agression pact of mutual admiration. Read and laugh. Here’s the Politico article:

  3. 2karmanot says:

    We could put all the tubes in the Pyramids, cover them with tin foil, guard them with nuclear bombs, and murder their innocent families!…”I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our internet. Yes, sir. I am.”

  4. Houndentenor says:

    It’s not as if all or even most of the servers are now in the US. Trump as usual doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  5. melissalwods says:

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  6. goulo says:

    Yeah, that’s the problem; only the people who vote for him get the government they deserve, while the rest of the people (in the US as well as the rest of the world) suffer with a government they did not deserve. :(

  7. Don Chandler says:

    Here is a sample of a Trump presidency:

  8. Outspoken1 says:

    I thought Bill Gates had retired from Microsoft and was working with his and his wife’s charities. Not really writing software any more. Further, Microsoft never had anything to do with the creation of the ‘Internet.’ That would have been ARPANET (USA, UK and France). Then wait until he hears about TOR!

  9. Don Chandler says:

    right now, he can only say he’s punked the republicans.

  10. Don Chandler says:

    He’s a idiot idiot on the floor
    And he’s lying like he’s never lied before
    He’s a idiot idiot on the floor
    And he’s lying like he’s never lied before

    On the same day, Russia’s Medvednev called for a world organization to regulate the internet….that is all about curbing free speech.

  11. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    That would explain so much.

  12. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I think you are correct, but it’s not the government that all Americans deserve. That’s a tragedy.

  13. BeccaM says:

    More than a few times it’s occurred to me the American people are getting exactly the government they deserve.

  14. Hue-Man says:

    Of course the tubes of the Interwebs are American; it’s what Al Gore invented!

  15. LanceThruster says:

    Maybe he could get Netflix to clog the pipeline?

  16. nicho says:

    Yes, he sounds just like, and is being treated just like, Ronald Reagan in 1976. Regan was overtly racist, extremist (for the time), and had cockamamie economic ideas. People laughed at him and wrote him off as a loser. Thank god we never heard from Reagan again.

  17. The_Fixer says:

    Another example of The Donald thinking that all he has to know to lead the country is how to make a deal to hire the right people. I am sure that Bill Gates had a good laugh when his name was mentioned.

    At what point is the guy gonna come out of shadows and yell “You’ve Been Punked” to America? I’m waiting.

  18. BeccaM says:

    Donald Trump is a deeply ignorant man who is attempting to pander to equally ignorant Americans. He’s been spewing all kinds of ignorant BS which, as we’ve been learning, doesn’t matter because the people at whom he’s spewing it actually WANT to believe the lies and misinformation. We’re talking about people who have no frickin’ clue how the Internet works, much less what it actually does.

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