TikTok ban and the RESTRICT Act; Congress is out of touch with technology


Adam Alexander, Social Media Manager

On March 23, the U.S. Congress had a hearing in regards to the potential harmful data collection from apps such as TikTok. CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, testified before Congress. During this hearing Chew was respectful and professional in his language and approach to speaking with the members of Congress. While the opposite can be said about Congress’s actions towards Chew.


First of all, the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act (RESTRICT) is an overreach of the U.S. government’s power. It directly affects the First Amendment by violating the rights to free speech, press and religion. The RESTRICT Act does not directly name TikTok, but instead is an even bigger and broader reach towards any source of technology that the Secretary of Commerce, with counsel from the President, can deem as harmful to the U.S.


With all that in mind, it is clear that TikTok will be first on the chopping block for being banned. The Congressional hearing in March made that apparent. During the hearing, U.S. Representative, Buddy Carter of Georgia, asked a question about the dilation of pupils in regards to TikTok’s algorithm. Chew answered, “the only face data that you’ll get that we collect is when you use the filters to have, see sunglasses on your face. We need to know where your eyes are and…” At this point Chew was interrupted by Carter who asked, “Why do you need to know what the eyes are if you’re not seeing if they’re dilated?” Which is an outlandish response and shows a clear misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of how technology works from our elected officials.

Another instance of an official not understanding the basics of technology would be that of Representative Richard Hudson of North Carolina. Hudson asked Chew, “Mr. Chew, does TikTok access the home wifi network?” Chew responded “Only if the user turns on the wifi.” Which is the obvious answer to anyone who understands the basics of any type of device that uses an internet connection.  Hudson also asked, “Is it possible then that it could access other devices on that home wifi network.” In which Chew responds, “I believe the answer to your question is no. It could be technical.” Hudson’s goal was to get Chew to say that yes you can access other devices via wifi, but any app can do that, not just TikTok. 


Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas was last to speak and made a huge mistake during his time speaking to Chew. Crenshaw, when asking about the Chinese citizens that work for TikTok, alluded to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) having access and the ability by Chinese law to request data from TikTok for the CCP to view. Crenshaw said, “And if they are called upon, they’re bound to secrecy. That would include you[Chew].” Which is so inappropriate for Crenshaw to assume Chew to be Chinese. Especially when it was stated before that he is Singaporean. Not only was Crenshaw inappropriate, he was ignorant for failing to do proper research for a Congressional hearing, as many of his colleagues failed before him.


This Congressional hearing, along with the RESTRICT Act, has shown that Congress has a limited understanding of what TikTok and other similar apps truly are. Libertarian Party Mises Caucus stated, “[the RESTRICT Act] gives the government authority over all forms of communication domestic or abroad.” Which is too broad for the government to control. The government having the ability to ban certain apps, software and social media outlets is a direct infringement on the First Amendment. In the case of TikTok, it would be taking away millions of voices, as well as stunting the religious freedoms of those who have created churches on the app due to COVID-19 and quarantine. The RESTRICT Act is more than just the banning of TikTok, it is the beginning of taking away the rights of U.S citizens.

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