A bill working its way through the US House of Representatives will have massive repercussions for Americans should it pass. The RESTRICT act, more commonly known as “TikTok Ban Bill,” will usher in a swathe of fresh restrictions on internet users. Under the legislation, using a VPN to bypass US bans on apps would become a criminal act punishable by a maximum 20-year prison term and/or a fine of up to $1 million. Besides attacking the rights of ordinary US citizens, the bill also opens another front in the ongoing US-China trade war that began in 2018 under the Presidency of Donald Trump.
It is about more than TikTokThe US trade war against China is heating up as Joe Biden’s administration ramps up the policy agenda of his predecessor. This time, the rights of ordinary US citizens could be part of the collateral damage. Last October, US officials banned exports of advanced microchip technology to Beijing. In February, US pressure prompted other nations in the western sphere of influence, including the Netherlands and Japan, to follow suit. Next on the agenda, the US will seek to ban TikTok and other social media linked to China and other foreign states the country deems adversarial. On Sunday, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew spent five hours answering questions from members of the US Senate.
“Let me state this unequivocally,” said Chew. “ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”US lawmakers were not impressed by Chew’s testimony. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, chair of the Senate’s intelligence committee, was among those who criticized Chew. “While I appreciated Mr Chew’s testimony, he just couldn’t answer the basic questions,” Warner said. Warner expressed his belief that “the White House is very in favor of this bill.” With cross-party support and White House approval, the bill currently looks well-placed to eventually be ratified.