GOP RESTRICT Act author decries ‘misinformation’ about TikTok ban bill

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to the media.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to the media. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

GOP RESTRICT Act author decries ‘misinformation’ about TikTok ban bill

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One of the main sponsors of a bill to rein in TikTok denounced critics as spreading misinformation after they criticized the legislation as a threat to privacy and free speech and compared it to the PATRIOT Act.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) spoke out on Friday after Senate Bill 686, also known as the RESTRICT Act, received critical attention the past week from civil liberties groups and many conservative commentators, who argue the bill would overextend government authority and infringe civil liberties.

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Perhaps most notably, Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused Thune and his co-sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), of “introducing flat-out totalitarianism” through the bill.

The RESTRICT Act provides new powers to the Commerce Department that would allow it to review business exchanges with foreign nations of concern involving information technology companies. The bill was introduced in an effort to create a more holistic approach to restricting TikTok in light of its connections to the Chinese Communist Party and its data collection practices.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation about this overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation — a misinformation campaign that seems to be more rooted in fear of our growing momentum than it is in the actual substance of the bill,” Thune said in a statement sent to the Washington Examiner.

“The RESTRICT Act responds to foreign-adversary technology threats of today by giving the force of law to former President Trump’s nearly identical effort, and it prepares for the threats of the future so the United States isn’t forced to play Whac-A-Mole every time a platform like TikTok rears its ugly head. The bill targets foreign countries like China and Russia, and it protects American consumers from the threats posed by these adversarial nations,” the senator said.

Critics say that the bill resembles the PATRIOT Act, a law passed after the 9/11 attacks that provided law enforcement with additional tools for tracking terrorists over commerce, technology, and communication.

Thune’s team said the bill is “squarely focused on tackling foreign adversary technology products, not ‘any transaction’ by American consumers.”

Critics also say that virtual private networks, commonly known as VPNs, could fall under the bill’s strictures if a user were to access banned apps by accessing the internet in a different country. Warner’s team rebutted the allegations and said that the laws only apply to the companies, not the users.

The RESIST Act has 20 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle in the Senate. Members of the House are also in discussion to introduce the RESTRICT Act in the lower chamber.

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Meanwhile, other senators have introduced rival legislation to ban TikTok. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have proposed outright bans of TikTok for months over its data collection practices and its relationship with the CCP.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress last week, where he was grilled by lawmakers on both sides over the company’s practices.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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