“Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton said this week that we should think about shutting down parts of the Internet to stop terrorist groups from inspiring and recruiting followers,” writes Farhad Manjoo in today’s NY Times. “Many online responded to Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton with jeers, pointing out both constitutional and technical limits to their plans. But I had a different reaction. Sure, it’s impossible, but just imagine if we could do it. Wouldn’t it be kind of a pleasant dream world?”
The man has a point. He goes on: “The Internet now seems to be on constant boil. Your social feed has always been loud, shrill, reflexive and ugly, but this year everything has been turned up to 11. The extremists of all stripes are ascendant, and just about everywhere you look, much of the Internet is terrible.”
Manjoo writes, “Social networks seem to be feeding a cycle of action and reaction. In just about every news event, the Internet’s reaction becomes a follow-on part of the story, so much so that much of the media establishment becomes trapped in escalating, infinite loops of 140-character, knee-jerk insta-reaction. These days the mudslinging is omnipresent in a way that’s never been the case before. There is little room for indulging nuance or complexity. The more stridently you can express your disdain, the better reaction you’ll get.” Meanwhile, the terrorists are clandestinely using the dark side of the net to conduct operations.
Orbmagazine hates to say I Told You So, but in fact we did. We’ve been going around for the last twenty years predicting nonstop that the proximate cause of the end of civilization on this planet will be the Internet. People snickered. Now they don’t.
It’s not only that terrorists use the web to inspire followers. They use it to teach them how to make bombs and carry them and smuggle them and where to put them. They have successfully hacked into all of the military and security websites of the U.S. and Western powers. They know how to disable the electrical grids, they have already done so preliminarily, and when one deranged individual halfway around the world decides to shut the grids down decisively, most regions of this country will be without electrical power for months on end. Anarchy will reign, and if you don’t understand that that’s what Al-Queda and ISIS are going for, you haven’t been paying attention.
This time Donald and Hillary, both of whom often spout nonsense, are onto something. Trump suggested he would ask Bill Gates for his expertise in accomplishing this shutdown.
In a separate article in today’s Times, titled “Making Sense of Trump’s Call to ‘Close Up’ the Internet”, John Markoff writes that the Internet is “a computer network that was intended to have no central control and no single point of failure. There is no one plug to pull or server to block. That decentralized structure has created headaches for anyone trying to control electronic communications.”
Yet, he acknowledges, China has managed to create a “Great Firewall” that controls Internet traffic in and out of the country. He does not rule out that this country could find some way to deny the world wide web as a propaganda and communications tool for the Islamic State and its allies.
Somebody better get cracking on this, and Hillary could be instrumental. She likes to pretend she knows nothing about technology, but she was smart enough to concoct a rogue email system that hid her communications from the Congress, the Obama White House and those Freedom of Information Act pests, and she kept it totally secret for five years. Maybe Hillary, Donald and Bill Gates could all work together to deal with this urgent danger before it is too late.