Social Media Law Restriction Declared a Trojan Horse

Social Media Law Restriction Declared A

( – Bipartisan concern regarding the risks posed by foreign social media platforms like Chinese-based video-sharing site TikTok continues to mount. As a result, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence introduced the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats Risking Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act on March 7, 2023. A bipartisan group of 23 other senators co-sponsored the measure, S.696.

The RESTRICT Act would comprehensively address ongoing threats posed by foreign adversaries by empowering the US Commerce Department to “review, prevent, and mitigate” communications, information, and technology transactions presenting a risk to national security. If passed, the measure would impose a civil penalty of up to $250,000 on any person or entity that conducts a transaction violating the proposed law. Additionally, Americans violating the act could face a criminal fine as high as $1 million.

Sen. Thune warned that Congress needed to “stop taking a piecemeal approach” when dealing with “technology from adversarial nations” posing ‚Äúsecurity risks” to the US. Sen. Warner echoed that sentiment. He also warned that other tech companies than TikTok, like Huawei, ZTE, and Russian-based Kaspersky Lab, also present a substantial risk to national security.

Despite widespread bipartisan support for the RESTRICT Act, substantial pushback is building against the measure’s passage.

Pushback Against the RESTRICT Act Builds

Young Republicans for Liberty posted a strongly worded statement on the group’s Twitter account. It warned that although the RESTRICT Act ostensibly targets the Chinese Communist Party-like TikTok app, it actually serves as a “Trojan horse,” opening the door to increased government surveillance.

In a similar move, State Freedom Caucus Network communications director Greg Price posted a statement characterizing the RESTRICT Act as “absolutely terrifying.” He posted a screenshot of part of the proposed bill, noting that it allows the government to target “anyone” it deems “a national security risk.” He concluded his remarks by calling the measure “a Patriot Act for the internet.”

On March 29, Vice Media’s Motherboard site pushed an alarming report detailing widespread concern among US-based digital rights experts regarding potential dangers posed by the RESTRICT Act. For instance, a security expert warned that although the measure targeted apps and services presenting security risks, the legislation could enable the government to target vital online security tools like virtual private networks.

Looking at the bigger picture, Stanford research scholar Riana Pfefferkorn said the RESTRICT Act would “grant a great amount of power to the executive branch,” a move that upset the balance of power between government branches, potentially favoring the power of the executive branch. Likewise, Willmary Escoto, a policy analyst for Access Now, warned that the act’s overly broad language could raise “serious human and civil rights concerns.”

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