Did former US Vice-President Al Gore say that he created the internet?

We came across the following post on the social media platform X:

The post features a 12-second-long clip in which the former US Vice-President Al Gore appears to make the claim that he created the internet.

‘During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet’, he says. ‘I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of—’, Gore continues, before the clip is cut off.

Al Gore served as vice-president from 1993 to 2001 under Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic nominee for the 2000 presidential election, which he lost narrowly to George W. Bush. Following the end of his term as vice-president, Gore became a prominent environmental activist, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

A Longstanding Myth

We conducted a web keyword search on Gore and his statement in the clip, and found multiple articles discussing a myth that Gore claimed to have said he ‘invented the internet’ that began circulating in 1999, shortly before Gore stood unsuccessfully for the presidency.

These claims also derive from the quotes in the X clip, with the only difference being that the older claims suggest Gore had said he ‘invented’ rather than ‘created’ the internet.

We found that these claims stemmed from an interview given by Gore to Wolf Blitzer of CNN in March 1999. The transcript of the interview, which remains available online, shows that Gore did say ‘I took the initiative in creating the Internet’.

The key quote comes from a segment where the interviewer asked Gore why he should be nominated for the Democratic presidential candidate ahead of Bill Bradley, a Democratic US senator.

However, Snopes—a respected fact-checking outlet, reviewed in 2005 the older claims that suggested Gore said he had ‘invented’ the internet, and rated them as false. They reached this rating by finding that Gore never made any claim about ‘inventing’ the Internet, and that his statement about ‘creating’ the Internet could not be interpreted as claims of invention when viewed in the context of the interview.

The Origins of the Internet

The Internet began operations in 1969 as ARPANET, an academic research network funded by the US military’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The project was initially led by Bob Taylor, an ARPA administrator, and the network was built by the consulting firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman.

In 1973, software engineers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn introduced the next generation of networking standards for the Internet, known as TCP/IP, which would become the foundation of the modern internet. ARPANET switched to using TCP/IP in 1983.

From the 80’s, the Internet was funded through the US National Science Foundation rather than the military. In 1994, the Clinton administration turned control of the Internet over to the private sector, marking the beginnings of the Internet as it exists today.

Al Gore’s Involvement

Gore’s contribution to the Internet was in his role as a lawmaker, championing legislation that would support its development. As a congressman in the 1970s and later as a senator, Gore sponsored several bills that would push for the federal government to take a central role in the ‘information superhighway’, which was the informal nickname given to the Internet.

While Gore did not code programs or develop computers, he helped to improve public access, create digital libraries, and push unclassified technology from the military into the public and commercial spheres.

Key to these efforts was the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, also known as the Gore Bill after its sponsor in Congress. The bill helped provide funding to connect computers to national networks linking government and academic institutions, and played a central role in accelerating the development of the Internet prior to its commercialisation.

Gore’s contributions may be best summarised by Kahn and Cerf, who are themselves often recognised as Internet pioneers. ‘Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development’, they wrote in 2000.

‘No one person or even small group of persons exclusively “invented” the Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among people in government and the university community. But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.

Gore is recognised for his contributions to the Internet in the Internet Society’s Hall of Fame.

The Truth of the Matter

While Gore’s contribution to the Internet is undeniable, so too is the fact that he is not the inventor of the Internet. Snopes finds that his statement may be a fair assertion if seen as a claim that he was one of the primary figures responsible for helping to bring the Internet into being.

Snopes also notes that the myth of Gore’s ‘invention’ was born as the result of a heated presidential campaign race, with the story taking on a life of its own as it came to be picked up by more and more media sources and political opponents.

The X post should be viewed in the context of the interview and Gore’s contributions to the Internet. While the quote relayed in the post is accurate, the core of the claim is misleading as Gore intended to highlight his legislative efforts in helping to bring the Internet into being in its modern form, rather than claim that he was responsible for its creation and its technological foundations.

This claim is therefore false despite it containing some factual elements.

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