Earlier this month, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or the RESTRICT Act. While the bill is advertised as a measure against foreign adversaries like China and social media platforms it owns like TikTok, the legislation’s vague language and broad scope have many raising concerns about its implications on free speech and freedom of expression.
The RESTRICT Act proposes granting the Commerce Department extensive new authority to regulate information and communications technology products connected to foreign adversaries, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. The wide-ranging products identified in the act include mobile apps, payment platforms, gaming systems, and even biotechnology. Critics argue that the bill infringes upon property rights and enables an extensive digital surveillance regime.
The Restrict Act does a lot more than just make it illegal for Americans to use TikTok. It will give unelected bureaucrats the power to make it illegal for Americans to use any other app or website, monitor our every move, censor our online speech, and crush any dissent, all… pic.twitter.com/G9CLnfkOqC
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) April 7, 2023
Former Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, now a political independent, has spoken out against the RESTRICT Act, expressing concerns about its dangers to American civil liberties. “It gives power, unfettered power, to un-elected bureaucrats in the Commerce Department to tell us what social media apps we are or are not allowed to use,” Gabbard said during a weekend appearance on Fox News. She pointed out similarities between the RESTRICT Act and the controversial PATRIOT Act. She emphasized that Americans must not allow their rights to be taken away under the guise of national security.
The bill’s implementation would infringe on property rights, as well as Americans’ fundamental right to control their property. If someone wishes to engage with foreign media and a website owner is willing to provide that service, it falls within the rights of both parties. However, interference with this transaction would violate the individuals’ rights to manage their property as they see fit.
The RESTRICT Act would enable the federal government to access devices without permission, breaching privacy and property rights. Its vague language also leaves room for interpretation, potentially allowing the government to criminalize certain dissenting views under the pretense of counterintelligence.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so too do the challenges to cybersecurity. However, addressing these challenges through the RESTRICT Act’s broad reach threatens the liberties and rights of the American people. Instead, the root cause of these issues should be addressed by reevaluating and adjusting American foreign policy.
Protecting property rights is essential, and as such, the American public must hold their elected leaders accountable for their actions. Tulsi Gabbard has urged citizens to take action, stating, “We have to hold these elected leaders — they work for the people — we’re the ones that get to hire and fire them, and we have to hold them accountable to do their job.”
The RESTRICT Act poses a significant threat to American liberties and property rights. As a solution to perceived foreign security threats, it ignores the root of the problem. Instead, it attacks the rights of the American people. The American public must remain informed and vigilant in safeguarding their constitutional rights in the face of such legislation.