US elections and digital policy

Millions of people watched the US Presidential election campaign very closely, as the decisions of the elected President have a bearing on the future of the Internet. The position expressed by  candidates during the US elections also affect the way an electorate votes, and can also help practitioners foresee developments and changes.

In the lead-up to the election, the curators of the GIP Digital Watch observatory tracked the candidates’ position on various Internet governance issues. This page summarises the positions and will remain as a reference point for forecasts and predictions.

US elections and digital policy: Exploring the issues in more detail

The table below follows the taxonomy used on the GIP Digital Watch observatory, which comprises of 43 issues grouped in seven broad baskets, or categories. Click on the icons to learn more about each issue. Quicklinks to baskets: Infrastructure & standardisation; Security; Human rights; Legal; Economic; Development; Sociocultural.

Read also: US Presidential Elections - and the candidates’ stance on digital policy (9 October 2016)

Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump

Telecommunications infrastructure


Supports development of 4G and faster adoption of 5G networks.

Wants to establish the Infrastructure Bank that will serve as a competitive grant programme to give cities, regions, and states incentives to undertake actions that foster greater access to high-speed internet for their residents at affordable prices. Clinton's Tech & Innovation Agenda comprises five key parts: leverage technology to create good-paying jobs; deliver high-speed broadband to all Americans and lay the groundwork for the Internet of Things; ensure America remains the global leader in technology; establish rules to support innovation while safeguarding privacy and security; make the government smarter using new technologies.

  Promises to rebuild the US infrastructure, without clear commitments.

Domain name system (DNS)


Clinton's Initiative on Technology and Innovation, announced in June this year, made reference to the fact that she 'supports the Department of Commerce’s plans to formally transition its oversight role in the management of the Domain Name System to the global community of stakeholders, viewing the transition as a critical step towards safeguarding the Internet’s openness for future generations'.


Opposed the IANA stewardship transition. According to a press release issued by his staff on the subject: ‘Donald J. Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world. The US should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the International community’. It was also argued that the transition would have negative consequences on the Internet freedom.

Network neutrality


Promises to support the strongest possible Net Neutrality rules.

  Has expressed concerns that Network Neutrality would be detrimental to the conservative media.

Internet of Things (IoT)

  Her initiative includes a reference to support for the further development of Internet of Things technologies: ‘Will dedicate federal research funding to test-bedding, field trials, and other public-private endeavors to speed the deployment of next generation wireless networks and a civic Internet of Things.’   No known position.



During the first Presidential debate, Clinton warned that cybersecurity and cyber-warfare are among ‘the biggest challenges facing the next president’.

As declared in her Initiative, she will support efforts to enhance cybersecurity, invest in cybersecurity technologies, public-private partnerships, information sharing and the adoption of best practices.

  During the first Presidential debate, Trump said that 'we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we're not... The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly do-able.'



As stated during the first Presidential debate, there are 'two different kinds adversaries... independent hacking groups that do it mostly for commercial reasons to try to steal information that they then can use to make money. But increasingly, we are seeing cyberattacks coming from states.'

She continued: '[Vladimir Putin has] let loose cyber attackers to hack in to Government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee, and we recently have learned that this is one of their preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information.'

Also during the first Presidential debate: 'I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC... It could be Russia but it could be China, it could be lots of people. It could be somebody that sits on their bed that weighs 400 pounds... 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.'

Called for the 'unquestioned capacity to launch crippling cyber counter attacks' as a deterrant against attacks on critical resources of country.

Child safety online


Pledged to protect children.

  No known position.



Called for a 'Manhattan-like project' to help law enforcement break into encrypted communications. Also said that the USA has to ‘balance liberty and security, privacy and safety’.

Avoids controversy while supporting security and privacy. Backed Apple’s position on encryption.

  Called on supporters to boycott Apple unless it agreed to comply with the FBI’s order to break encryption.

Freedom of speech

  Opposes efforts to block or degrade Internet access or to shut down social media, while promising to work with the technical communities to ‘deprive jihadists of virtual territory’   Promises to work with the technical community to prevent online recruiting by terrorists and would support Internet shutdowns in the case of conflicts with third parties.

Privacy and data protection


Supports efforts such as the US-EU Privacy Shield to protect data movement across borders.

Rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe.


No general stance on privacy issues, but has committed to specific points, such as to close the loopholes in the federal privacy law to ensure that students’ personal information remains private.

Women's rights online


Clinton plans to increase access to capital for SMEs and startups, focusing on minority groups, women and young entrepreneurs.

  No known position.



According to her Initiative, Clinton believes the federal government should modernise copyright. Will also promote open-licensing arrangements for copyrighted material and data supported by federal grant funding.

  No known position.



Supports allowing cities and states to tax online purchases, but would not mandate it.


Agrees with Clinton that there should be an Internet sales tax. 

Believes that giant tech company Amazon is harmful for commerce: ‘Amazon doesn’t pay tax...And a lot of people think Amazon should be paying tax and they’re not, and they’re destroying department stores and retailing all over the country.'

Economic - other issues


Opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement made with 11 other nations along the Pacific Rim. However, she  endorsed the pact when she was Secretary of State.

Pledges to step up enforcement of trade laws that can be used to bar low-priced imports by creating a chief trade prosecutor and tripling the number of trade enforcement officers.


Trump also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. Has threatened to impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports in retaliation for Beijing’s currency manipulation. He also would impose a 35% tariff on imports from Mexico to discourage U.S. companies from moving there.




Supports high-speed broadband for all US citizens and free WiFi in public places under the framework of the Initiative on Technology & Innovation.

  No known position.



According to Clinton’s campaign, she wants to ‘ensure that technology is a force for broad-based growth, reducing social and economic inequality, and securing American leadership on the global stage.’

  In an open letter to Trump, technology sector leaders claim that Trump would be ‘a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy - and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth’.

Content policy


Wants to close off parts of the Internet (mainly social media) to combat ISIS. Clinton says that the only solution was to engage American technology companies in blocking or taking down militant websites, videos and encrypted communications).

As stated during the first Presidential debate, the United States needs to 'do much more with our tech companies to prevent ISIS and their operatives from being able to use the Internet, to radicalize, even direct people in our country and Europe and elsewhere.'


Trump also wants to close off parts of the Internet (mainly social media) to combat ISIS.

Technology companies have expressed concern. In an open letter to Donald Trump, they claim that Trump would obstruct the free and open exchange of ideas.

[Last updated: 10 January 2017]