I’m sure many of you have heard the news about the TikTok ban proposed by Congress.
I’m personally not a fan of TikTok. I don’t like how it acts as a brain-drain for the creative youth. Instead of people becoming bored and doing something productive, they sit down and scroll through the app for countless hours.
But that’s beside the point. I’m not here to argue the ethical issues of TikTok. What I am concerned about is how our government is responding.
Congress claims that the RESTRICT Act should be passed to “protect” us, deeming TikTok a threat to national security.
This is very reminiscent of the Patriot Act, the act that was passed in 2001 after 9/11. This act was portrayed as protecting the citizens of the United States from enemies afar, but in practice, the act gave more power to the National Security Agency, allowing our government to tap into our private devices without a warrant.
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Just like the Patriot Act, our congress is painting the RESTRICT Act as though it is a shield to stop China and Russia from destroying our ways of life.
But once you read the act, you start to see the big picture.
The RESTRICT Act is just another grab for power by our federal government. The act grants unmeasured power to the United States Department of Commerce.
Historically, the department’s function is to help improve U.S. innovation, U.S. global competitiveness and support economic growth within the states.
But the RESTRICT Act now grants the Department of Commerce authority to overlook technological transactions made by individual citizens, firms, government agencies, labor unions, social organizations, partnerships, corporations, joint ventures and groups for profit or not.
They are using the political situation with Tik Tok as an excuse to monitor every single technology-based transaction made. Not only will they overlook transactions, but they can now interfere with them too.
According to Congress’s webpage, the secretary of commerce can report to any department and agency heads, and is authorized to take a multitude of actions to a transaction they deem a threat. They can deter, disrupt, prevent, investigate, and prohibit any transaction made by an individual.
They can deem any transaction a threat, and as a result, have the power to intervene and punish the individuals involved.
Furthermore, the act determines a transaction to be a threat if it poses a risk of sabotage or subversion of information and communication, catastrophic effects on the security of the U.S. digital economy, interference with the election, criminal activity by a foreign adversary or poses a risk to national security or safety of U.S. persons.
The majority of these “threats” are subjective. They aren’t concrete risks; they can be twisted and turned depending on who is arguing.
This is a power that our government has never had before, and it goes against the very core beliefs of our country.
According to the act, citizens can face up to 20 years in prison for being involved with a transaction deemed as a “threat” to America and its people.
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This is an Orwellian style of government intervention, one like the Chinese government that we supposedly are trying to “protect” our citizens from.
So, in order to protect us, our government is giving itself unforeseen amounts of power over our economic freedoms and is taking away our liberty with our transactions.
I wouldn’t be mad if they focused solely on multi-million-dollar corporations that are involved with hundreds of thousands of transactions a day, but it’s the fact that they focus on the individual citizen.
The act’s definitions of “threats” to our society and economy are too vague for me to be comfortable with. The act’s rationalization of punishing individuals for going against it terrifies me.
This is a blatant grab for more power. Our government is claiming it is helping us by banning TikTok – but it is actually handcuffing us and restricting us.
Please go read up on the RESTRICT Act on Congress’s website. You need to see what our government is doing, because they clearly don’t care if we see it or not.
Nick Moser (he/him) is a senior majoring in English and minoring in political science and film production.