Online Control Bill Threatens US Democracy, Critics Warn (Worthy News In-Depth)

Sunday, April 16, 2023 | Tag Cloud

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – An influential American commentator and former legislator warns that a proposed new internet control bill “threatens” U.S. democracy and its “God-given rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.”

Ex-U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is worried about the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act (RESTRICT).

Americans violating the law could face a $250,000 civil fine, a $1 million criminal fine, and a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

Gabbard said the bipartisan bill, seen by Worthy News, does more than ban mobile applications, or apps, of foreign adversaries such as China’s TikTok.

“It does ban TikTok; it makes it illegal for Americans to use TikTok. But it does a whole lot more than that,” said Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party.

The RESTRICT Act, she noted, “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.”

Her comments refer to the broader text of the legislation quietly making its way through the U.S. Congress and reviewed by Worthy News.


For example, article S. 686 of RESTRICT does not only affect TikTok but could allow the U.S. government to designate any country as a “foreign adversary” without congressional oversight.

It says the law would “authorize the Secretary of Commerce to review and prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries, and for other purposes.”

The government could then restrict access to any online services associated in some way with that country.

“Specifically, the Department of Commerce must identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, and mitigate transactions involving [Information and Communications Technology] ICT products and services (1) in which any foreign adversary (such as China) has any interest, and (2) that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the safety of U.S. persons,” a law summary explains.

Critics have called it an “Orwellian” law resembling George Orwell’s novel “1984” on the consequences of totalitarianism and mass surveillance.

Yet supporters of the RESTRICT Act, led by Democratic Senator Mark Warner, said the bill allows the government to review and potentially ban all harmful services without solely targeting the controversial Tik Tok video app.

While the broader scope seems to evade issues of focusing on one company, Gabbard and others say the legislation raises serious privacy concerns.


The RESTRICT Act gives the government “unfettered access to our data, our [internet] browsing histories, how we’re using different apps on our phones, and it basically criminalizes the use of [virtual private networks] VPNs, with some pretty serious consequences,” Gabbard stressed.

“And they’re doing all this in the name of “national security.” Now, this sounds a whole lot like what we saw with the PATRIOT Act” enacted after the terror attacks against the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

She said, “American people need to be smart enough not to fall into this trap again where ultimately we have, again, people who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, our civil liberties, our rights, but they are hell-bent on taking those rights away.”

Gabbard noted that “dangerously” the RESTRICT Act does not allow “us to challenge their actions through our court system. This is a very serious bill that threatens the very foundation of our democracy and our God-given rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.”

She added: “We can not allow them to do this again.”

Darrell West, a senior fellow with the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, fears the law could impact many Americans. “There’s a risk of unintended targets.

There could be consequences for businesses or individuals that inadvertently get swept up in this,” West said in published remarks.

Yet with preparations ongoing, it wasn’t clear Sunday whether the U.S. Congress would abandon plans to vote for the controversial RESTRICT Act.

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