Many know TikTok as the dancing app that Gen Z’ers use to get their news. In what may be the near future, it could be the known as the reason you or one of your friends is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence. It has come under fire as a security concern in several states — several of them do not allow government employees to even download the app on to their devices. Resistance against the banning of TikTok has been readily framed as a free speech issue, but the real danger is what the banning mechanism could do to (what remains of) our right to privacy. From Hot Hardware:
Ultimately the problem is not with the idea of banning TikTok. The problem comes in with all of the other powers that this bill gives the government. Senate bill 686 is formally known as the “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology” (RESTRICT) act. The act gives the government ridiculously wide-reaching powers with little oversight. This allows the government to control and censor information and imposes heavy penalties on people that attempt to avoid these powers.
The scope of the powers that Bill 686 would give the government feels like the Patriot Act all over again. Quick recap: After 9/11 happened, Congress passed a huge bill that no one read — there literally wasn’t enough time in the interval between the event and the Patriot Act’s passing for anyone except ChatGPT 5 to read the damned thing — the government used the specter of terrorism to basically do away with that little requirement of probable cause before they went to snooping around in people’s lives. This bill appears to do the same.
It is difficult to understate how globally this act would permit the government to snoop on whomever they find in violation of it. Anything that connects to the internet is fair game — your phone, your smart thermostat — anything.
It’s a really rough week for anyone using a VPN out there.
These changes are daunting in the abstract and concretizing them doesn’t help a bit. We know a third of TikTokers use it as a news source. Twitter was also used as a news source before Walmart brand Tony Stark bought it and started messing with its verification systems. Folks have been scrambling to figure out what the new platform would be if everyone jumps bird — are normies savvy enough figure out Reddit and Mastodon?
They might have to hurry up with the learning curve; Twitter is dropping the legacy verification system come April 1st, and tweeting news sources could lose some reliability in all of the hubbub. Some knowledge-hungry undergrad uses a VPN to find a TikTok explaining a current event? 20 years minimum. Easy enough you say, just delete TikTok! Okay, and then what? How can the average person know which news source is or isn’t on the government’s surveillance hit list? You’d have an easier time figuring out if you work for Twitter.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.