Could the RESTRICT Act Criminalize the Use of VPNs?

Would the RESTRICT Act—a.k.a. the TikTok ban bill—criminalize the use of VPNs? That’s the rumor floating around about the legislation, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mark Warner (D–Va.) earlier this month. Warner’s office has said his bill wouldn‘t do this… but its broad language leaves room for doubt. And the act is still insanely far-reaching and could have a huge range of deleterious effects, even if it doesn’t criminalize people using a VPN to access TikTok.

VPN stands for virtual private network, and there are several different kinds, but their general aim is the same: keeping your digital activities and location private. Using a VPN with your computer, phone, or another internet-enabled device can do things like mask your I.P. address and encrypt your internet connection. It’s a great way to get around location-based firewalls (a.k.a. geoblocking) and other forms of internet censorship.

For this reason, VPNs are popular in countries that exercise authoritarian control over what their citizens can access online. It’s sad that this contingent could soon include U.S. citizens, but include us it does, as both Republicans and Democrats get more and more gung-ho about banning the popular video platform TikTok.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) introduced one TikTok ban bill back in January. Hawley’s bill would direct the president to use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to specifically “block and prohibit all transactions” and to “prevent commercial operation of” TikTok parent company ByteDance in the U.S.

The latest legislation is more extensive—and even more invasive.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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