The 'Insanely Broad' Restrict Act Could Ban Much More Than Just TikTok

The RESTRICT Act, a proposed piece of legislation that could ban TikTok, has been criticized for its broad language that could lead to other apps or communications services with connections to foreign countries being banned in the U.S. The bill could have implications not just for social networks, but potentially security tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs) that consumers use to encrypt and route their traffic. The RESTRICT Act is led by Senators Mark Warner and John Thune and is not limited to just TikTok. The Department of Commerce would identify information and communications technology products that a foreign adversary has any interest in, or poses an unacceptable risk to national security. The bill only applies to technology linked to a foreign adversary, including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. The RESTRICT Act could criminalize the use of a VPN, significantly impacting access to security tools and other applications that vulnerable people rely on for privacy and security. Many individuals and organizations, including journalists, activists, and human rights defenders, use VPNs to protect their online activity from surveillance and censorship. The RESTRICT Act would expose these groups to monitoring and repression, which could have a chilling effect on free speech and expression. The bill's broad language could criminalize the use of many applications and services, raising serious human and civil rights concerns. The U.S. passing a more fundamental privacy law could be a potential solution.