Prominent conservatives from Tucker Carlson to Donald Trump Jr. are warning that a "bipartisan" bill advertised as a "Tik Tok Ban" could be used to crack down on U.S. citizens.
The RESTRICT Act imposes draconian penalties, including prison sentences of up to 20 years and fines of $1 million, for making unauthorized transactions with a "foreign adversary."
The one-sentence summary of the bill says it allows the Commerce Secretary to "review and prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries."
Donald Trump Jr. said the RESTRICT Act is a power play by the "uniparty," while Tucker Carlson said it "gives enormous new powers to the federal government to punish American citizens and regulate how they communicate on the Internet."
The bill to ban Tik Tok gives enormous new powers to the federal government to punish American citizens and regulate how they communicate on the Internet.https://t.co/9Ll68ZFXXd pic.twitter.com/oNYXOIxj2h
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) March 28, 2023
On paper, the bill allows the government to regulate or ban foreign technologies that threaten national security. But the government is given a sweeping mandate to define how it pursues that goal.
The Commerce Secretary and the head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are given broad discretion to define any foreign government as a "foreign adversary." The term "transaction" is defined as follows:
any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology product or service, including ongoing activities such as managed services, data transmission, software updates, repairs, or the provision of data hosting services, or a class of such transactions.
The federal government is then given sweeping discretion to:
identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate, including by negotiating, entering into, or imposing, and enforcing any mitigation measure to address any risk arising from any covered transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
The White House has endorsed the bill, calling it “a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans.”
The bill's chief sponsor, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), said Americans have no reason to worry about overreach because it's "squarely aimed at companies like Kaspersky, Huawei and TikTok that create systemic risks to the United States' national security, not individual users."
Of course, if the bill was aimed "squarely" at those companies, it probably would have been written differently.