The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or RESTRICT Act, popularly referred to as the "TikTok ban," goes beyond banning the Chinese-linked platform.
It empowers the federal government to designate any nation as a "foreign adversary," restrict online services and products even indirectly controlled by an entity within their jurisdiction, and impose significant penalties on Americans who engage in almost any transaction with them.
Violating the law could be as simple as using a VPN service to access a foreign website or a banned app, including TikTok.
Sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the RESTRICT Act contains far-reaching provisions. One notable aspect is the imposition of a civil penalty of up to $250,000 by the Secretary of Commerce on individuals who conduct transactions that violate the act.
The bill adopts a broad approach in defining a transaction, encompassing activities such as acquisitions, importation, data transmission, software updates, repairs, data hosting services, and other transactions designed to evade or circumvent the act's application.
However, the $250,000 fine is only the tip of the iceberg. American citizens found to be in violation of the act could also face a criminal fine of up to $1 million and a jail sentence of up to 20 years.
Furthermore, the bill allows the federal government to seize and access various devices and services belonging to American citizens, including hardware devices like phones and computers, internet access points such as cable and wireless, e-commerce technology and services, cryptocurrencies, and even advanced technologies like quantum computing, post-quantum cryptography, advanced robotics, and biotechnology.
Adding to the bill's far-reaching impact, the government is granted immunity from public oversight by restricting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the enforcement of the bill. Consequently, the RESTRICT Act resembles an American version of China's "Great Firewall," which isolates its citizens from a significant portion of the worldwide web.
However, unlike in China, where VPN usage does not automatically lead to imprisonment and many citizens use VPNs to access popular apps and video games without repercussions, the RESTRICT Act imposes much more severe penalties on those who violate its provisions.