Governance March 29, 2023
US VPN Users Face 20-Year Prison Terms Under TikTok Bill
A bill working its way through the US House of Representatives will have massive repercussions for Americans should it pass.
The RESTRICT act, more commonly known as “TikTok Ban Bill,” will usher in a swathe of fresh restrictions on internet users. Under the legislation, using a VPN to bypass US bans on apps would become a criminal act punishable by a maximum 20-year prison term and/or a fine of up to $1 million.
Besides attacking the rights of ordinary US citizens, the bill also opens another front in the ongoing US-China trade war that began in 2018 under the Presidency of Donald Trump.
It is about more than TikTok
The US trade war against China is heating up as Joe Biden’s administration ramps up the policy agenda of his predecessor. This time, the rights of ordinary US citizens could be part of the collateral damage.
Last October, US officials banned exports of advanced microchip technology to Beijing. In February, US pressure prompted other nations in the western sphere of influence, including the Netherlands and Japan, to follow suit.
Next on the agenda, the US will seek to ban TikTok and other social media linked to China and other foreign states the country deems adversarial.
On Sunday, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew spent five hours answering questions from members of the US Senate.
“Let me state this unequivocally,” said Chew. “ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”
US lawmakers were not impressed by Chew’s testimony. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, chair of the Senate’s intelligence committee, was among those who criticized Chew.
“While I appreciated Mr Chew’s testimony, he just couldn’t answer the basic questions,” Warner said.
Warner expressed his belief that “the White House is very in favor of this bill.”
With cross-party support and White House approval, the bill currently looks well-placed to eventually be ratified.
The RESTRICT Act is not limited to just TikTok. It gives the government authority over all forms of communication domestic or abroad and grants powers to “enforce any mitigation measure to address any risk” to national security now and in any “potential future transaction” pic.twitter.com/0mFNEKLUqU
— Mises Caucus (@LPMisesCaucus) March 26, 2023
The dwindling rights of US citizens
In the rush to quash competition from adversarial states, the rights of ordinary Americans now appear under threat.
If passed, the bill seeks to “identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate” any technology that poses risks to the US. That would include “any hardware, software, or other product or service primarily intended to fulfill or enable the function of information or data processing, storage, retrieval, or communication by electronic means, including transmission, storage, and display.”
Under the bill, commonly used software such as VPNs would fall within its remit. Those attempting to communicate with banned applications via VPN would be subject to the highly punitive law.
Nation-states specifically named by the bill include the People’s Republic of China, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region; the Republic of Cuba; the Islamic Republic of Iran; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; the Russian Federation; and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The balkanization of the internet
Under the terms of the bill, the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Commerce would have the authority to designate new foreign adversaries without notifying congress.
The bill to ban TikTok is absolutely terrifying. It gives the government the ability to go after anyone they deem as a national security risk at which point they can access everything from their computer to video games to their ring light.
This is a Patriot Act for the internet. pic.twitter.com/uYea49F1b1
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 28, 2023
As Ryan Sean Adams said on Twitter this Tuesday, “This is the final nail in the coffin toward the full balkanization of the internet. Our free and open global communication network is now divided into zones of power.”
Most worryingly, it is believed that US citizens could also be designated as foreign adversaries. This would open them to the full sweeping powers of the act, granting US authorities access to all of their personal information including on mobile networks, social media, and more.
‘Google Manipulating Search to Favor Liberals and Influence Elections’
Tech giant Google is allegedly manipulating search to favor liberals and tip elections, reports the New York Post. The company is using its virtual monopoly as a search engine to “elevate liberal views, stifle conservatives, and manipulate children,” according to a research report by Dr. Robert Epstein.
Epstein, who has spent the last decade monitoring Google’s manipulation of newsfeeds, search engine results, and YouTube suggestions, shared his latest report with the Post.
“Google has the power to change minds and move elections to suit its liberal corporate worldview,” according to the Post, citing the report.
Google shifted 6 million votes to Biden
Social media and the internet have become influential parts of political campaigning worldwide, as they are used to sway voter sentiments through various platforms.
However, the researcher claims that Google alone manipulated its search engine to shift 6 million votes to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election in the United States.
Read Also: Musk Will Leverage AI to Detect Manipulation of Public Opinion on Twitter
“Google secretly had in 2020, using biased algorithms which skewed search results towards positive links for Biden and negative links for Trump, as well as Get Out The Vote messaging on Google’s home page targeted primarily at Democrat voters,” stated the researcher Epstein.
Liberal bias is pervasive
The liberal bias is even more pervasive, as the primary outcome of Epstein’s report reflects monitoring how Google’s massive psy-op targets children through YouTube and other products.
Google’s culture is monomaniacally liberal. Google execs have shown willingness to use the power of algorithms to intervene in elections to change voters’ minds on a massive scale.
How Google manipulates search to favor liberals and tip elections https://t.co/WQ9gg9DUQ8 @nypost
— Zel (@OneAndOnlyZel) May 26, 2023
YouTube’s ‘Up Next’ suggestions were biased towards liberal sources 76% of the time for adults. However, data from the past three months reveals that for children and teens, the percentage of suggested videos from liberal sources on YouTube is as high as 96%, according to the researcher.
“That’s how aggressive they are with our kids, because they think they’re gods. And no one has ever taken them to task, ever,” stated the researcher.
‘Google doing this since Obama took power’
Reacting to news regarding Google’s manipulation of search to favor liberals and swing votes, a Twitter user saw no surprise from the company.
“No surprise Google is behaving like media, which cherrypicks the information it reports. Omitting inconvenient information,” reads her reaction.
This is not new. Google has been doing this since the day Obama took office. https://t.co/hMXpYpEopj
— Chuck Norris (@GreyShhadow) May 26, 2023
In another scorching tweet, a user expressed frustration and claimed “election interference is allowed” and “ignored” as long as it benefits the Democrats.
“Try finding El Salvador economic reports for the last 20 years on Google. You can’t, but the World Bank reports prove decades of growth,” a user tweeted to reflect the search manipulation of Google.
Planning for live data in 2024 presidential election
The researcher has developed the same system as Nielsen for monitoring TV ratings to capture the ephemeral data by effectively “looking over the shoulders” of real users, whom he calls field agents.
Epstein has permission to record every Google interaction from 7,566 registered voters in 50 states. The researcher has even bigger plans, as he added 1,600 children aged 5–17 to expand his “field agents” pool to 25,000.
The best way to stop Google is by exposing what they do, he argues, and to this end he has built a public dashboard to go live in the 2024 presidential election.
The platform will feature live tracking of bias on Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Bing using real-time data from his chain of law firms across the United States.
However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised the Congress before the 2020 presidential election that “Google does not modify any products, including Search, to promote a particular political viewpoint… [We] will not do so for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.”
China Urges Parents to Report Children’s Use of Encrypted Messaging Apps to Police
China has issued a directive to parents to report police if their children are using encrypted messaging apps. Almost every social media platform is banned in China, and even China-owned TikTok is facing restrictions in the Western world and Australia.
This strict control over social media is a result of the Chinese government’s censorship policies and concerns about information control.
Also Read: Montana Becomes First US State to Ban TikTok Completely
Additionally, TikTok has also faced challenges in India, where it was banned due to national security concerns related to data privacy and its Chinese ownership. Even in China, TikTok is only available in its Chinese version, Douyin.
The TikTok ban in the United States has made headlines in recent years, whereas China seeks to restrict encrypted western-owned platforms.
Concerns over content erasure
According to a statement from the authorities cited by state media, Chinese authorities claim that such apps reside in a “grey area” of legal supervision as they possess “the ability to erase content immediately after reading, which facilitates the destruction of criminal evidence.”
The statement highlights concerns about the potential “misuse” of these apps and the challenges they pose in terms of preserving valuable evidence.
The authorities emphasize the need for stricter regulations to ensure accountability and prevent the potential destruction of crucial information.
The local authorities have issued instructions to parents, urging them to bring their children to the nearest police station if they come across any messaging apps “to find out whether their children had engaged in a crime.”
The report emphasizes that “school and family education should play an important role in deterring juvenile crimes.”
The significance of parental involvement and educational institutions in preventing and addressing potential criminal activities among young individuals, stated the authorities.
Last autumn, messaging apps like Telegram played a crucial role in facilitating the organization of demonstrations.
Messaging apps played a dual role during the protests by facilitating coordination and preserving censored media.
Individuals used these platforms to save pictures and videos that faced swift deletion by censors, resulting in a constant battle with Chinese government surveillance and censorship.
The demonstrations, referred to as the “white paper” protests because participants held up blank sheets of paper, expressed their dissatisfaction with China’s strict zero-Covid policies and censorship.
These protests stood as the largest demonstrations since the historic Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, which ended tragically with the military resorting to the use of force against the demonstrators.
Example of totalitarian states hating encryption
In response to the news, one individual expressed a striking observation, stating, “It’s a strange twist on Mao’s Red Guard, who ratted on their parents to the commies; now we have parents ratting on their kids.”
The user conveyed a sense of resignation, stating, “Well, whatever works at pitching families, neighbors, and friends against each other.”
Another individual remarked, “The perfect example – why totalitarian states hate encryption.”
Facebook on the Verge of Being Fined €746m for Misusing Data
Facebook is set to be slammed by the Irish regulator as it prepares to punish the social media giant with a €746 million fine for mishandling user information, reports The Guardian.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, acting as the primary privacy regulator for Facebook and Meta in the EU, is anticipated to halt data transfers from Facebook’s European users to the United States with its decision.
The fine and ruling, expected to be confirmed on Monday, will establish a new record for violating the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR), surpassing the €746 million penalty imposed on Amazon by Luxembourg in 2021.
Read Also: TikTok Collecting Similar Data to Meta, Twitter, Snap
The parent company of Facebook is expected to get a chance to appeal against the punishment in the anticipated grace period.
Inadequate data handling
Austrian privacy advocate Max Schrems is the one who brought the legal challenge. The ruling addresses concerns raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations, indicating that European users’ data is not adequately protected from US intelligence agencies during transfers across the Atlantic.
Meta’s policy chief, Nick Clegg, said that suspending data transfers based on standard contractual clauses (SCCs) could have a “far-reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs and on the online services that many people and businesses rely on,” back in 2020.
“A billion-euro parking ticket is of no consequence to a company that earns many more billions by parking illegally"
fromhttps://t.co/KUPPR6MVIM#facebook #meta #privacy #fine
— Dr Stuart Woolley (@FractalDoctor) May 21, 2023
In a recent quarterly report the company stated that without SCCs or “other alternative means of data transfers,” it would “likely be unable to offer a number of its most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.”
Potential compensation for user data usage
Over on Reddit, the public has been reacting to the news and raising the possibility of receiving compensation.
“Do I get some of this money if they used my information?” asked one Redditor.
Another user responded, “You’ll see a little bit all over. It’s going into EU coffers, so it will fund EU projects, I imagine.”
The conversation explored the idea that provisioning funds for EU projects might be more worthwhile than distributing small amounts to individuals.
“Which, if spent well, is more worthwhile than just giving people £1.67 or whatever tiny amount,” stated one contributor.
The comment thread also touched upon the revenue Facebook generates from user profiles and the varying advertising value based on different regions.
Opinions expressed in the Reddit thread highlight the ongoing debate surrounding Facebook’s data handling practices and the financial implications for both the company and its users.
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