The RESTRICT Act: What is Next for TikTok?

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

On March 7, Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner introduced the “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act” also known as the “RESTRICT Act,” to the U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden endorsed the bill, which could potentially lead to the ban of the popular social media app TikTok. The RESTRICT Act would enable the federal government to further regulate hardware and software created by U.S. adversaries. 

The RESTRICT Act is part of a wider effort in Congress to regulate foreign technology, especially that from China. If the bill sees passage, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce would have the power to place restrictions on any foreign technology deemed harmful to the U.S. The bill is broad in its definition of technology, including hardware, software and mobile applications.

Due to growing suspicions over the Chinese technology company Huawei spying on the U.S., the Biden administration banned its products in November of 2022. Similar accusations of spying surround TikTok; TikTok Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress in March. Other nations deemed adversaries whose technology could face regulation under the bill include Iran, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and North Korea.

The RESTRICT bill has bipartisan support, a rarity in contemporary politics. Both parties seem to have united on the issue of regulating foreign technology.

As far as why this has bipartisan support — I think it is 100% because it deals with China. I also think it is a bit disingenuous as well. It was a little odd hearing mostly old men, who probably haven’t even seen or used TikTok, so up in arms. While it may be true that TikTok spies on Americans, I am not so sure that they are doing anything worse than Facebook or Instagram. So to single out TikTok when the issue applies more broadly to social media and American social media companies seems somewhat problematic. I don’t see a problem generally with regulating social media if the regulations are applied fairly and across the board, but I don’t think singling out TikTok and foreign companies is good policy,Miami Palmetto Senior High Advanced Placement Macroeconomics teacher Joel Soldinger said.

Critics say that the RESTRICT bill would also remove some regulations on what the executive branch must do, giving the president broader power when it comes to enforcing restrictions on foreign technology. The bill does not require the executive branch to disclose why it applies the law if it complicates national security.

Florida officials banned TikTok from all state universities on April 6. The question remains: will the federal government follow? Soldinger believes that the push to ban certain foreign technologies is counterproductive.

I think we need to be working with China as much as possible, and this isn’t going to be helpful. I know this is easier said than done, but with so many other issues such as climate change, Taiwan and Ukraine/Russia, just to name a few, it seems that it would be much better if we could work something out in order to open lanes to work on the other more complex issues that we need to solve. As far as the TikTok creators/influencers, of course, this is going to hurt them but, I am sure they will find other ways to reach their audiences,” Soldinger said.