WASHINGTON, January 4, 2018 – As the government of Iran continues to restrict internet access to hinder anti-government protesters’ ability to organize and communicate, the Trump Administration continues to condemn the restrictions – which include blocking numerous American social media websites and apps – in spite of previous statements by President Trump that endorsed “closing down” parts of the internet on national security grounds.
Iranian authorities began to sporadically cut off internet access in several cities where anti-government protests broke out late last month, while also intermittently blocking access to social media platforms like Instagram. Beginning on Sunday, the Tehran government also completely blocked Iranians’ access to Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that is widely used in that country.
On Sunday, President Trump took to his Twitter account to blast the Iranian regime’s actions.
Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2017
The view of candidate Donald Trump on the internet
Trump’s disdain for restricting internet access comes in stark contrast to views he expressed as a candidate.
In December of 2015, Trump, who was then a candidate for the Republican nomination, delivered a speech on board the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina in which he referenced the Islamic State terrorist group’s use of social media as a recruiting tool.
Trump suggested that American officials meet with Microsoft founder Bill Gates to shut off parts of the internet.
"We're losing a lot of people because of the internet," Trump said. "We have to go 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 way. Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people."
President Trump's views today about the internet
When asked about the contrast between the President’s Sunday tweet and the views he expressed as a candidate, a National Security Council spokesperson told BroadbandBreakfast.com that Trump “has strongly advocated for basic human rights, including freedom of speech, for the brave Iranian people trying to take back their government from an oppressive regime.”
Neither the NSC nor the White House would say whether the President would still consider it acceptable for the United States to restrict internet access, nor would they say whether Trump still believes those who would object to such actions while citing freedom of speech are foolish people.
But the Trump Administration does not believe that it is fair to compare the Iranian government’s shutdown of communications infrastructure with the concerns that candidate Donald Trump expressed regarding use of the internet by the Islamic State and other extremist groups as recruiting tool.
And on Monday, possibly in response to Trump’s tweet, Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology took to his own Twitter account – an ironic choice considering Twitter is banned in Iran – to insist the blocking was only temporary.
“A rumor that a permanent cut in social networks, particularly the untrue and seem to be aiming to create social discontent and public cynicism,” he said.