March 30, 2023
The Digital Patriot Act
Do you trust our government?
By: Brian Almon
In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, ostensibly to remove the barriers to data sharing between law enforcement that allowed the Al Qaeda plot to slip through the cracks.
In that environment, few were willing to criticize the act for fear of looking weak on terrorism. However, Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 that the NSA and CIA were spying on American citizens showed that we were wrong to trust our government with such power.
Using the unauthorized tour of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021 as an excuse, the federal government has used the powers we gave them to fight Islamic terrorism against the American people. Men and women are sitting in solitary confinement without bail or trial, pro-life pastors and conservative parents attending school board meetings are being labeled domestic terrorists, and a man is currently on trial for making memes mocking Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Have we learned our lesson? Have we internalized the fact that our government is not on our side, and that any power we give them will inevitably be used against us?
Nearly three years ago I wrote one of the earliest pieces calling out TikTok for its potential for propaganda as well as the fact that it was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Now, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are taking action to ban the app from our country entirely.
Sounds good, right?
The devil is always in the details.
Rather than just simply saying “TikTok is hereby banned” or even “Any app controlled by the CCP is banned,” the new proposal sponsored by Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia is broad and sweeping legislation that could give the US government near total control of how we use the internet.
Several people have read the bill closely and are extremely worried about what it contains:
Greg Price, a former reporter who is now the Communications Director for the State Freedom Caucus Network, exposed the RESTRICT Act in a Twitter thread this week:
Another user posted a thread going into further detail, and warning that if this passes we will see more political persecution like that of Douglas Mackey:
Sheila G. posted a very deep dive into the text of the bill:
The Libertarian Party’s Mises Caucus was one of the first accounts to call out the problems with the RESTRICT Act:
Basically, this bill is bad news. It gives the federal government power to control and censor any internet-based application and to target anyone they accuse of using said apps to undermine American democracy. As we know, when the left says “undermine American democracy” they mean anything that disagrees with the ruling regime.
A cursory reading of the bill text suggests that it is meant to go after foreign actors, but remember that the left has already labeled anyone who voted for Donald Trump a Russian asset.
Jesse B. Watters of Fox News reported on the RESTRICT Act and confronted one of the co-sponsors, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Watch:
Sen. Graham did not even understand what the bill said. He likely had some staffer call him up and say the bill bans TikTok and would show that he is tough on China and so he said “sign me up!”
Don’t you feel safe knowing that massively important laws that could impact our freedom and privacy for decades to come are being decided by old men and women who not only have zero understanding of technology but don’t even bother reading the bills they support?
This might come as a surprise, but the biggest problem with TikTok is not that it is controlled by the CCP. Is China getting hold of your metadata really that worse than Google or Facebook? Not really. The problem is in how apps such as TikTok grab hold of our attention using finely tuned algorithms that then blast us with the worst examples of human behavior. An entire generation of young people is being absolutely destroyed by the internet and social media; TikTok is just the best at what they do.
Fear of China is on everyone’s minds as the drums of World War III grow louder throughout the world, and our lawmakers are using that fear against us to grab control of the internet once and for all.
The wording of the RESTRICT Act could even criminalize average Americans who use virtual private networks for privacy or to access certain restricted websites or applications. According to Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason, Sen. Warner’s office denies that the bill does this, but the language is vague enough that it’s entirely reasonable to believe the government would take it upon themselves to prosecute people for using VPNs, perhaps as a pretext to shut down political dissent.
The government already wants to crack down on encrypted messaging such as Signal and Telegram, so going after VPNs would not be a surprise. Watch for government rhetoric that says VPNs are secret tools used by hackers, drug dealers, and sex traffickers.
The RESTRICT Act will be sold to you as protecting children and getting tough on China, but neither are the case. This is a new Patriot Act, designed to give our government the tools to crack down on our freedom and our privacy.
“This isn’t about banning TikTok, this is about introducing flat-out totalitarianism into our system,” said Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Monday. “This is not an effort to push back against China, it’s part of a strategy to make America much more like China.”
This is yet another reminder that good intentions pave the road to Hell. Our intelligence agencies were created to protect us from Soviet plots. The Patriot Act was sold on the promise of protecting America from another 9/11. Even the porn filter bill I testified against last week was all about protecting children, despite the myriad problems with the bill.
Urge your senators and congressmen to vote no on this horrible bill. What good does it do to protect ourselves from China if we have to become China to do it?
In the end, the problem with TikTok and the rest of social media comes from within ourselves. Sure, the CCP might well be using TikTok to ruin an entire generation of Americans, but those aren’t Chinese actors performing a degenerate display to damage our moral character. No, it is we the American people who are engaged in a downward spiral of deviant behavior, all in the hope of getting a few more clicks and likes.
We will not save our country by allowing our federal government to control the internet, nor by banning specific apps. We have to get serious about raising our children to not be slaves of the algorithm, to find joy outside of screens and the shallow social validation that comes with them.
Neither our government nor Big Tech have our best interests at heart. I’m not saying you have to be a Luddite living in the woods to survive the modern age, but you have to live deliberately, and raise your children deliberately as well, or else someone else will do it for you.
Note: A descendant of American pioneers, Brian writes about the importance of culture and about current events in the context of history. His work can be found on Substack, here.