The RESTRICT Act crosses boundaries


Patrick Daniel

The RESTRICT Act is rushing through the legislative system to protect our data from foreign adversaries, but its vague wording may have unintended consequences U.S. citizens will pay for.

Tami-Ann Treasure, Opinion and Editorials Editor

The newly-introduced RESTRICT Act, also known as the TikTok ban, is a vague and broad bill proposed by Congress in March. The act is supposed to grant access to the U.S. Department of Commerce to ban or restrict a range of communications and technologies from six specific foreign adversaries.

The bill was initially introduced in an effort to ban TikTok, but is worded so poorly, you can’t help but wonder if it covers a wider scope.

If a bill is too broad, there is a possibility it could extend to areas it is not intended for, such as social media platforms based in the U.S. However, they should also be given scrutiny due to the spread of misinformation through these platforms.

Jason Kelley and David Greene, writers of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “If Congress is concerned about foreign powers collecting our data, it should focus on comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation that will have a real impact, and protect our data no matter what platform it’s on—TikTok, Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else that profits from our private information.”

It is not clear whether companies or individuals who use these apps would face consequences for using them.

“The question becomes, if the legislation is intended to target companies that use the banned technologies or apps, not individuals that use banned technologies or apps, then is it really a ban? It would not seem to be, in the true sense of the word,” Teresa Hutchins, professor of political science, said.

This country is known to be very proud of its free speech. How does this bill not undermine free speech if what we are allowed to have on our personal devices is being targeted?

An article from ExpressVPN states, “The Act could give the government too much power to ban apps and services that allow people to communicate, such as TikTok, thereby limiting freedom of expression. It could give the government too much leeway to control and censor information.”

The concerns of foreign governments using technology to gather data on citizens for various purposes are valid. However, it wouldn’t be a simple fix as our technological world is too integrated.

If the privacy of our citizens is the true concern, a data privacy bill should be passed. The RESTRICT Act is not about getting ahead of national security issues—it is just another means of government control.