Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner in the United States presidential race, has set his sights on restricting Internet freedom. At a political rally in December 2014 Trump stated that if elected he would call up Bill Gates and put him to work “closing up that Internet in some way.” Trump’s speech has prompted some people to consider a VPN in the unlikely event that he wins the race for president.
Laugh if you want at Trump’s antics—he’s completely hilarious at the best of times—but some people fear Trump is a legitimate threat to individual freedom and are taking him seriously. With calls for a ban on all Muslim entry into the United States and a constant stream of racially-charged rhetoric, there can be little doubt Trump would try to use the powers of the presidency at his own discretion. That could include taking aim at Internet freedom as we know it in the United States.
Could Trump really shut down the Internet?
The answer is yes and no.
Trump’s suggestion that he could just call up Bill Gates and get him to flip some switch and turn off the Internet or parts of it is, according to an article by The Verve, profoundly stupid. For a man that claims to be intelligent Trump’s remarks reveal that he doesn’t even have a grasp of how the Internet works. Unless, that is, he meant something different than what the media has said.
Donald Trump understands that “turning off” the Internet isn’t possible but that making parts of it inaccessible like they do in China or the Middle East is. Internet censorship is what Donald Trump was talking about. If he is elected Trump could most certainly attempt to impose Internet restrictions and ban access to certain websites or content.
Would he be opposed? Almost certainly. But do you think someone like Donald Trump will hesitate to use an executive order to accomplish his will and circumvent Congress if they oppose him? It is a reasonable suggestion to think that Trump will issue an executive order at the drop of a hat and he could certainly do so in regards to the Internet.
Which websites would Trump block?
According to Trump, he only wants to restrict the Internet in the interest of preventing terrorism by Islamic Jihadists. Presumably he would try to regulate or block websites that provide VoIP services that allow Americans to communicate with people in Syria or other areas of the Middle east.
Would he target Skype or WhatsApp? Possibly. What happens then when he fails to realize that Skype is used by millions of honest people in the US for work or school? What happens when expatriates working in the US can no longer use Facebook to communicate with their family in Jordan or the UAE or India?
Would Trump turn his anger toward news outlets and blogs that offer unbiased reports from Egypt, Iran, and China? In many cases these are the best sources of information especially when there is a crisis. Many people turned to the Internet to monitor the latest developments in the Paris shooting of late 2014 as it was happening.
The point is that Trump could, in theory, send his hounds after any website or service that made him angry. Anyone that follows Trump knows that this group of people can vary from day to day.
How to prevent Trump from closing the Internet
Well, first off don’t vote for him! Hey, we’re just keeping it real. If he doesn’t win then he can’t use the President’s magic phone to call Bill Gates (apparently Trump believes that such a phone exists and that it can be used to call the army, Santa Claus, Warren Buffet, Elvis, and anyone else that has ever existed).
If Trump were to win the presidential election and make good on his threat to censor the Internet, the only logical solution would be a VPN. A VPN would have the ability to unblock websites by routing your connection through a server overseas and making it appear as if you were logging in from Germany or the UK.
In fact, many US residents are already using a VPN to browse the Internet because of the sweeping data collection practices that were imposed by the NSA. While the government claims that the NSA’s aggressive data gathering program has been shelved, many people believe that the US is still heavily monitoring US Internet traffic.
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