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A comprehensive look at all of Donald Trump’s positions on technology issues

Donald Trump Politics

Later tonight, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will square off once again when the third and final presidential debate kicks off at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. If the first two debates are any indication, tonight’s event will be long on personal attacks and short on substance.

While the debates thus far have straddled the bizarre line of being both entertaining and embarrassing, the end result is that neither debate has presented either candidate with a real opportunity to address important issues in great detail. One such area is the realm of technology. With that said, we figured it was high time to go back and take a look at everything Donald Trump has had to say about issues pertinent to the tech world.

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Trump wants to force Apple to build computers in the United States

By and large, the vast majority of Apple products are manufactured overseas. As part of his concerted effort to “make America great again,” Trump all but said that, if elected, he will do everything in his power to turn Apple’s manufacturing process upside down.

During a January 2016 speech at Liberty University, Trump said that if he becomes President, he will make sure that Apple “builds their damn computers in this country.”

“We have such amazing people in this country: smart, sharp, energetic, they’re amazing,” Trump said.  “I was saying ‘make America great again’, and I actually think we can say now, and I really believe this, we’re gonna get things coming. We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.”

That sure makes for a great soundbite, but Trump’s remarks here only serve to illustrate his lack of understanding regarding the fundamental economic realities that govern the mass production of consumer electronics.

Trump wanted to boycott Apple after the San Bernardino shooting

In the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist shooting that left 14 people dead and many more injured, Apple engaged in a public battle with the FBI over encryption. In short, the FBI wanted Apple engineers to create a custom version of iOS that would have enabled them to bypass the lock screen on Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c. Apple vehemently refused, with Tim Cook going so far as to say that the FBI wanted Apple to create the software equivalent of cancer.

Speak out on the matter this past March, Trump called on supporters to “boycott Apple” until the company acquiesced to the FBI’s demands.

“To think that Apple won’t allow us to get into her cellphone?” fired up Trump asked during an episode of Fox and Friends. “Who do they think they are? No, we have to open it. I agree 100% with the courts. In that case, we should open it up. I think security overall — we have to open it up. And we have to use our heads. We have to use common sense. Somebody the other day called me a ‘common-sense conservative.’ We have to use common sense. Our country has so many problems.”

Incidentally, Trump in the days following his proclamation was still tweeting away from his iPhone.

Trump was against the U.S. relinquishing control of ICANN

Earlier this month, the United States ceded control of ICANN, the organization responsible for overseeing and maintaining the distribution of domain names and IP addresses. In the days preceding the transfer of power to a consortium of international stakeholders, Trump’s National Policy Director Stephen Miller explained why the move was worrisome in a note published on Trump’s official website.

Donald J. Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world. The U.S. should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community. President Obama intends to do so on his own authority – just 10 days from now, on October 1st, unless Congress acts quickly to stop him. The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful. Hillary Clinton’s Democrats are refusing to protect the American people by not protecting the Internet.
The U.S. created, developed and expanded the Internet across the globe. U.S. oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution’s Free Speech clause. Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost.

Trump is against Net Neutrality

Trump is not a big cheerleader of net neutrality, as evidenced via the tweet below.

The Fairness Doctrine was eliminated in 1987 but you can read more about it over here. Suffice it to say, it has nothing to do with net neutrality in the slightest.

Trump thinks T-Mobile has horrible service

To be fair, Trump’s view of T-Mobile is colored by his heated relationship with T-Mobile CEO John Legere. Still, these tweets are hilarious.

Trump wants to close up parts of the Internet to battle ISIS

In one of Trump’s more peculiar statements about technology, the Presidential candidate late last year blamed, in part, the Internet for the rise of ISIS. While ISIS has undoubtedly used the Internet for recruitment and propaganda purposes, Trump’s tech solution in this regard reads as follows:

We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people who really understand what’s happening and maybe, in some ways, closing that Internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people, we have a lot of foolish people. We’ve got to maybe do something with the Internet because they’re recruiting by the thousands, they’re leaving our country, and then when they come back, we take them back.

Now as for what Trump has in mind when he says that he wants to close off parts of the Internet, well, that’s anybody’s guess.

Driving the point home, here’s Trumps remarks on the topic as stated during a 2015 Republican debate.

Trump: ISIS is recruiting through the Internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet, and it was our idea. I want to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they’re doing. You talk freedom of speech. I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth. We should be using our most brilliant minds to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the Internet. And then we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS. And we can do that if we use our good people.

Q: So, are you open to closing parts of the Internet?

Trump: I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I don’t want to let people that want to kill us use our Internet.

Trump is an advocate of surveillance to combat terror

In the interest of thwarting terror attacks, Trump has stated on a few occasions that surveillance is an effective technique law enforcement authorities should rely on.

Trump believes the NSA should be given as much leeway as possible

When asked about the NSA during a 2015 interview, Trump said the following:

To the extent that the agency can accomplish its mission without violating the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, it should be given as much leeway as possible. However, American citizens are guaranteed certain protections. There must be a balance between those Constitutional protections and the role of the government in protecting its citizens. Congress should continue to be the arbiter of that balance.

Trump views cyber warfare efforts from China as a significant threat

From Trump’s 2011 book, Time to Get Tough:

What China is doing on the cyber warfare front is equally alarming. Cyber spying can isolate network weaknesses and allow the Chinese to steal valuable intelligence.

China presents three big threats to the United States in its outrageous currency manipulation, its systematic attempt to destroy our manufacturing base, and its industrial espionage and cyber warfare against America. The Chinese have been running roughshod over us for years. Obama claims we can’t do what’s in our interests because it might spark a “trade war”–as if we’re not in one now.

Trump’s doesn’t have a concrete plan to defend against cyber attacks

During the first Presidential debate, Trump opined:

As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?

You don’t know who broke in to DNC.

Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over.

We came in with the Internet, we came up with the Internet, and I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what [ISIS] is doing with the Internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS.

So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.

Trump wants to protect U.S. tech intellectual property

Take this for what you will, but Trump said the following last year on innovation and the U.S. position in the tech space.

I am a big believer in technology and will be a strong supporter of expanding tech capabilities in the United States. As President, my goal would be to ensure that the intellectual property produced in America remains the property of those who produce it. Letting other countries steal our property will not happen on my watch.

Trump is not a fan of Edward Snowden

Trump is a big fan of Twitter

During the first Presidential debate, Trump was curiously asked about his tweeting habits. He responded:

Tweeting happens to be a modern-day form of communication. I mean, you can like it or not like it. I have, between Facebook and Twitter, I have almost 25 million people. It’s a very effective way of communication. So you can put it down, but it is a very effective form of communication. I’m not unproud of it, to be honest with you.

Trump’s position on H-1B visas is unclear, sort of

With respect to H-1B visas, a visa which many U.S. companies take advantage of to bring in and hire skilled workers from overseas (often in the tech sector), it’s hard to get a read on Trump’s position because he’s changed his tune on more than a few occassions.

In some interviews, Trump has lauded H-1B visas for playing an important role in attracting the best brains in the world to the United States.

They come from another country, and they’re immediately sent out. I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley.”

More recently, though, Trump has criticized the program for putting Americans out of work. To wit, the following statement was published on Trump’s website a few months ago.

The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices such as those that occurred at Disney in Florida when Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.

Trump didn’t know how to turn a computer on in 1997

Okay, maybe we’re being too harsh here because, truth be told, many people who were Trump’s age when the Internet burst onto the scene in the mid-90s weren’t exactly computer savvy. Still, we just couldn’t pass up excerpt from Trump’s 1997 book The Art of the Comeback:

Today the computer and technology industries are hot, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t cool off quickly. It just seems to me that they are overheated, and competition is strong. When I read about all of the different companies producing new computers by the thousands, it seems like a very tough business to me. But then, I don’t even know how to turn on a computer. Therefore, I’m not a natural investor in technology. If you are drawn to this sector, at least approach it with an advisor.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.