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The TikTok Ban Is The Next Patriot Act
Aaron Sobczak

HR 7521, called the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is a recent development in American politics. TikTok has been in the news for the past few years, after the public became aware of its connections to China. The popular social media mobile app is currently owned by ByteDance Ltd, a Chinese company. China and the United States currently have a rocky relationship, leading to fears that the Chinese government could potentially use this app to spy on American citizens. Several states and counties voted to restrict the usage of the app in some ways, mostly disallowing government employees from using it on government-owned phones. Earlier this month, the United States Congress passed a piece of legislation that would restrict the app’s availability if certain requirements are not met by ByteDance.

Putting aside the idea that politicians rarely have pure motives, this act has the potential to be just as dangerous as the Patriot Act. With a supposed goal of protecting American national security, the Patriot Act granted sweeping permissions to the federal government and the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, with far less due process. In addition to having the potential to violate privacy rights and the Fourth Amendment, this new act is a blatant attack on property rights. Mobile device manufacturers and owners have every right to install whatever software they would like, as it is their property. Any illusion of a right to national security is immediately contradicted as collective rights are positive in nature and thus not rights at all.

When looking through this act, several parts stick out.

It begins by restricting any entity from distributing, maintaining, or updating any application that is controlled by a foreign adversary. As skeptics of the state would point out, this is already problematic. It should be obvious that one cannot adequately trust the American national security regime to determine which countries or entities are adversarial. A recent egregious example would be when the United States was determined to paint Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, as a uniquely evil power that assisted with the events of 9/11. Additionally, one can point to how the Trump and Biden administrations supported covid lockdowns, thus making Americans who understood the Constitution and property rights look like enemies in the eyes of many. The state has proven itself to be incapable of telling Americans who or what they should fear.

The act then goes on to even ban the hosting of internet services that enable the use of these apps, furthering the state’s control over the internet. In addition to these fears of further government censorship, Senator Rand Paul has pointed out that many Americans own a stake in ByteDance; this restriction would mean that the government is taking away American property without suspicion of a crime. The act does not just restrict companies that are directly controlled by a foreign government but even companies that are owned by private citizens of an adversarial state. When it comes to government censorship, the Chinese government is the gold standard.The American government is following in the steps of the Chinese Communist Party. The Constitution and the natural-law-based rights that the United States was founded upon conflict greatly with this level of state censorship.

Setting aside any pretense of national security, this act will restrict competition in the American marketplace, if not incidentally.Companies such as Alphabet and Meta will benefit greatly from a huge decrease of competition in the social media marketplace. Additionally, foreign cooperation in the global marketplace serves to spread the values of capitalism and free expression. It is understood that free trade greatly reduces the risk of traditional warfare between states, resulting in greater global competition.

Further alienating states that are considered adversarial is shown to diminish peace.

This is seen in how Iran reacted to the end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, how North Korea positively reacted to President Donald Trump’s brief attempts to normalize diplomatic relations, and how Russia reacted to the expansion and aggression of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

While not quite as wide-ranging as the Patriot Act, this recent act is dangerous in multiple ways.

The natural rights to free expression, property, and privacy are at further risk with legislation such as this.

One can point to how this will greatly support very large companies such as Alphabet and Meta in the American marketplace, companies that have spied on American citizens on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Additionally, already-estranged nations are less likely to come to any sort of reasonable agreement as they are continually backed into a corner by the global community.

Skeptical Americans who are knowledgeable of history should not trust the American national security regime to properly determine who their enemies are, or the best way to keep Americans safe.

This legislation will only give increased power to the expansive state, power that the state has proven itself unable to use judiciously.




Aaron Sobczak holds an M.A. in Public Policy with an emphasis on International Policy. He has written for various outlets, and especially enjoys researching topics related to international law, American History, and public choice. He is currently part of the Mises Institute’s apprenticeship program. Aaron lives in Lynchburg, Virginia with his wife.

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