Prepare to Be Monitored: The TikTok Bill Could Lead to the Patriot Act for the Internet

The founding principles of the United States of America are centered on the ideals of unrestricted markets and the freedom to express oneself. Yet, the RESTRICT Act introduced to Congress poses a significant threat to these fundamental beliefs, potentially eroding the civil liberties of Americans. Despite receiving support from both sides of the political aisle, and the full endorsement of President Biden and his administration, the proposed legislation to ban the Chinese-owned app TikTok remains highly controversial.

The RESTRICT Act is a piece of legislation that could have far-reaching consequences, granting the executive branch broad authority to regulate or even prohibit any online information or communications transaction carried out by companies controlled by a foreign adversary. The bill could enable the government to force the sale or confiscation of assets, as well as issue subpoenas for information. In addition, the legislation imposes strict penalties on individuals who violate the new restrictions, including those who attempt to circumvent or assist others in circumventing them. It is, therefore, regarded by some as a Trojan horse, concealing a potentially dangerous and invasive agenda.

The potential consequences of the RESTRICT Act are profound and could have severe implications for the civil liberties of American citizens. If TikTok is banned, Congress would be effectively preventing over 100 million users from exchanging information through the app, thus violating their rights to freedom of speech as enshrined in the First Amendment. Such an action would also be in contravention of the Berman Amendment, which prohibits the government from banning content based solely on its country of origin. This situation underscores the gravity of the situation and highlights the need for careful consideration of the implications of the proposed legislation.

According to lawmakers, the justification for banning TikTok is to safeguard national security, but this reasoning is flawed since the US government already engages in such practices with domestically-owned social media companies. Besides, adopting the same tactics as authoritarian regimes is not an effective way to counter them. China itself has banned TikTok, so why should we resort to similar measures that contradict our values? Such actions could alienate an entire generation of Americans from their own country, rendering it counterproductive to achieve any meaningful change.

Jessica Melugin of the Competitive Enterprise Institute succinctly summed up the issue by stating, "Regardless of concerns about data or TikTok itself, the RESTRICT Act presents a serious threat to the free speech rights of all Americans and is poor policy. If we are concerned about the Chinese government having access to personal information, shouldn't we also be cautious about empowering an unelected domestic bureaucrat with vast and ambiguous discretion? This approach risks sacrificing the fundamental protections enshrined in the First Amendment in the name of national security."

The RESTRICT Act's proposal is alarming and should concern all Americans. If approved, it would constitute one of the most extensive power grabs over technology, commerce, and communications since the Patriot Act's implementation in 2001. The bill would curtail individuals' free speech and free market rights, while granting an unelected bureaucrat wide-ranging and unclear discretion. Furthermore, the legislation would establish severe punishments for anyone who attempts to evade the new constraints.

The United States was founded on principles of freedom and liberty, but if this bill passes, those values will be in jeopardy. It is up to all citizens to speak out against this bill and protect their civil liberties from being taken away by their own government.

Written by Staff Reports

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