The internet acts as a dangerous conduit for the radicalization of extremists – and social networks should be controlled more tightly to act proactively and prevent mass shootings. That is the essence of President Donald Trump's reaction to the latest deadly incidents over the weekend, as he pinned the blame for these crimes on the internet and social media platforms.
The mass shootings, that saw two attackers kill 29 people in separate incidents in El Paso and Dayton, have prompted Trump to address the issue.
The president put a strong emphasis on the internet providing a platform to radicalize “disturbed minds” who “perform demented acts.”
Referring to “the perils of the internet,” Trump spoke in favor of preemptive action that would “stop mass murders before they start.”
He further stressed this point when he called for bipartisan action that would allow authorities to identify potential perpetrators ahead of time “and act on early warning signs.”
Without explaining how this might be achieved, Trump also revealed that he told the US Department of Justice to team up with “local authorities and social media companies” to ensure they obtain early warnings about those who might be planning mass shootings and do more to stop it.
US security and spy agencies already have extensive internet surveillance programs in place, and there is a new one now in the works at the FBI who are looking to acquire a tool for near real-time monitoring of social media platforms.
During his address at the White House, Trump didn't appear willing to support other ideas meant to deal with the phenomenon of mass shootings, such as Democrat-driven gun control initiatives.
It remains to be seen how both his supporters and detractors will react to Trump lending his support to the push to introduce more control on the internet by “shining light on its dark recesses.”
Digital and civil rights advocates routinely warn of the danger of any overzealous action of this kind resulting in the stifling of legitimate speech.