The TikTok Countdown: H.R. 7521 and Why Time is Running Short for Free Speech Online

With the rise of social media as the new marketplace of ideas, the uniparty elite have set their sights on stifling perhaps the last frontier of free speech in America, encapsulated in H.R. 7521, colloquially known as the TikTok ban bill. The bill, recently passed by a 352-65 margin, nominally would force Bytedance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, to sell the popular social media platform to a U.S. based firm, with the alternative being an outright prohibition of its use in the country. 

The prevailing narrative used in justifying the bill is that the Chinese Communist Party will utilize its influence over TikTok’s parent company and render the app as a potential risk to national security. However, in reaction to the controversial legislation, many prominent voices in the political sphere have expressed concerns over the implications that the bill would have in regards to freedom of speech on the Internet.   

In a tweet from March 12th, liberty champion Rep. Thomas Massie, who voted against the bill, described the legislation as a “trojan horse,” which would give the President “ the power to ban WEBSITES, not just Apps.” 

Journalist and conservative firebrand Tucker Carlson echoed these sentiments, alluding to Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) being an obvious target and the logical conclusion to the establishment’s push for this legislation:

“In a classified briefing this afternoon, attended by officials from the Biden Justice Department, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed that Elon committed “election interference” in 2022 by “changing the algorithms” on X to alter the results of the midterms that year. Not coincidentally, the anti-TikTok legislation now being debated on the Hill would allow the federal government to force the sale of any social media platform that interferes in elections. Just so you know what’s coming in 2025.”

However, it is not just the American right that have conveyed disdain for the bill, as many noteworthy left-wing figures have also spoken out against its adoption. Jenna Leventoff, the senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, did not mince words regarding her opinion of the legislation: 

“Make no mistake: the House’s TikTok bill is a ban, and it’s blatant censorship. Today, the House of Representatives voted to violate the First Amendment rights of more than half of the country. The Senate must reject this unconstitutional and reckless bill.”

It is also notable that 50 House Democrats voted against the bill as opposed to a mere 15 members of the GOP, which claims to be the party of limited government. 

Given the Federal government’s past history of using similar legislation to leverage more power for itself at the expense of violating the rights of American citizens, supporters of free speech should be heavily concerned with the wide-ranging consequences of the bill. As noted by Robby Soave at Reason, the actions of the Feds in recent years have set a terrifying precedent of tyrannical overreach regarding information shared on social media: 

“Of course, the U.S. government has also pressured American tech companies to censor content on social media. Thanks to the Twitter Files, the Facebook Files, and other independent investigations, we know that multiple federal agencies—including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security, and even the White House—instructed social media platforms to take down contrarian content relating to elections, Hunter Biden, COVID-19, and other subjects.”

In what is already amounting to a tumultuous year in politics, 2024 may also yield further erosion of First Amendment protections enjoyed by Americans, once again in the name of “keeping us safe.” With the Senate’s vote on the bill looming, coupled with the fact that President Biden has indicated that he will sign the bill into law if it reaches the Oval Office desk, the days of free speech online may be numbered. 

If we are to reverse course, advocates for liberty across America should do everything in their power to voice their opposition to H.R. 7521. 

Eric Madden, Copywriter & Editor


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