The RESTRICT Act Includes Prison & Huge Fines For American Citizens

The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act or RESTRICT Act, sold to the public as a “TikTok ban,” does far more than simply ban the Chinese-linked platform...



he RESTRICT Act is the very definition of a Trojan horse: innocuous on the outside, lethal on the inside. And it is being wheeled toward the gates, with the help of Republicans in Congress. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) allows the federal government to unilaterally designate any nation a “foreign adversary,” ban online services and products even indirectly controlled by an entity in their jurisdiction, and then penalize Americans who conduct virtually any sort of transaction with them.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va), sponsor of the RESTRICT Act

The RESTRICT Act goes after anyone whom the powers that be deem a threat. That determination is made by the Secretary Of Commerce. A threat can include people abroad and U.S. citizens. The penalties for violation of the Act — which could be as simple as using a VPN service to access a banned product like TikTok — are extraordinarily severe.

The first tool in the government’s arsenal is a civil penalty of up to $250,000, imposed by the Secretary of Commerce on anyone who conducts a transaction that violates the act.

As to what counts as a transaction, the bills takes an impossibly broad approach, classifying it as “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,” as well as “any other transaction, the structure of which is designed or intended to evade or circumvent the application of this Act.”

But the $250,000 fine is the least of the penalties. American citizens found to be in violation of the Act would also face a potential criminal fine of up to $1 million, as well as a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

And then there’s asset seizure: bill allows the feds to seize and access a laundry list of devices and services of American citizens.

These include hardware devices like phones and computers, access points to the internet including cable and wireless, “e-commerce technology and services, including any electronic techniques for accomplishing business transactions” (a definition sufficiently broad to include every cryptocurrency), and even “quantum computing, post-quantum cryptography, advanced robotics,” and “biotechnology.”

On top of all that, the bill grants the government immunity from public oversight, restricting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the enforcement of the bill.

Nervous yet? You should be. With a stroke of a pen, or more appropriately, a flick of a switch or click of a button, you can be declared a threat and shut down at the discretion of the bureaucracy.

The RESTRICT Act is essentially an American version of the Chinese “Great Firewall,” which cuts its citizens off from a wide swathe of the world wide web.

But even in China, where numerous apps are banned, VPN use does not automatically lead to imprisonment, with large numbers of Chinese citizens using VPNs to access popular apps & video games & largely getting away with it.✪


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