Is the so-called TikTok law a tool to enable the US President to censor apps and websites at will? Yes and no. One thing is certain: This law isn’t about TikTok; that’s just a smokescreen.

Welcome to another episode of The Private Citizen, a civil liberties podcast! The regular audio version of the episode is embedded above and you can subscribe to the show with the buttons in the sidebar or by following the instructions on this page. There’s also a video version of this episode available on YouTube:

H.R. 7521

Today, I am examining House bill H.R. 7521, namely the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, also known as “the TikTok law”, which is currently being debated in the US Senate. It was discussed on episode 80 of America This Week by Matt Taibbi and Walter Kirn, who took it as a general censorship law, allowing the President of the United States to censor websites almost at will.

I agree with them that this law is not really about TikTok. And it does allow the President to censor all kinds of web apps, but there are some crucial restrictions placed on this. Mainly that the app or website must have at least 1 million monthly active users and that it be controlled by an entity from a country named in 4872(d)(2) 10 USC (ie. North Korea, China, Russia or Iran). So to censor an app or website from another country, this law would first have to be amended.

→ For details, see my annotated copy of this bill

See also: World Targets in Megadeaths, Eye on The Press

Listener Feedback

Evgeny Kuznetsov made a beautifully argued, but also very depressing point in response to episode 167:

While I agree with many of the things you’re saying about the press, I think you’re making the same mistake as Mr. Klaas, and missing the point.

Does the press fail at informing people about the things that matter for the wellbeing of society? Arguably, yes. Does the press demostrate bias? Totally. Does the press fail to put up a discussion about policies rather than politics? Absolutely.

Did everybody just switch off their cable news programmes? No. Did the press go out of business because it ceased to be relevant? Nope. Do people on Substack now set the discourse for the bigger part of the society, with only a few percent of the society still interested in what cable news companies have to offer? Not even close.

Yes, journalists like you do have audience; I’m much more interested in your journalism than I am in the state television. But your audience is limited to people who like asking the next question. Most people are not like that.

Most people don’t care. They care about their hobbies, their spouses, their children, their apartments and houses, their cars. They don’t care about policies or politics, up to the very moment that policies affect them personally, but by that time it’s usually too late.

I bet most people would stop taking part in the political life completely if they were left to their own devices. That would not look nice: someone could start questioning the results of an election where only about 10% of the voters showed up. Consequently, there’s understandable incentive for those involved in politics to make people interested just enough to vote, but not enough to actually want to affect policies. Turning politics into a wrestling show is perhaps not the only way to achieve this, but it works quite well: people develop sympathies for one political figure over another (personal sympathies, of course; about actual policies most people don’t care), people vote, and then mind their own business until the next election.

Of course, populism wins as the result. The greatest thing about modern politics in every system I’m aware of is that, after the ballots are counted, the elected politican doesn’t even have to fulfill the campain promises. Seriously, there’s absolutely no liability in doing exactly opposite to what you promised to be elected! And this is not going to change, because people at large don’t care.

For us few who do care it seems counterintuitive, but people manage to live their lives without caring about policies (or politics, for that matter). Politicans exploit this situation to their benefit. The few people who care provide a counterbalance; sometimes it’s effective, sometimes it isn’t.

Was it not always so? I don’t know, but so far I’ve failed to think up a counterexample. Will it always be so? I don’t know, but so far I’ve failed to think up a way to fix it.

As Fadi Mansour replies: What next? Where does that leave us? What is the solution for this?


First and foremost, I would like to thank everybody who provided feedback on this or previous episodes. You are very important to the continued success of this podcast!

This podcast is provided free of charge and free of obligations under the value-for-value model. However, as a freelance journalist volunteering my time to produce this show, I need your support. If you like my work and want to make sure The Private Citizen keeps going, please consider joining my Patreon.


Executive Producers

  • Butterbeans
  • Jaroslav Lichtblau
  • Michael Mullan-Jensen
  • Rizele
  • Sandman616
  • Sir Galteran

Supervising Producers

avis, Bennett Piater, Dave, ikn, krunkle, Tobias Weber


Andrew Davidson, astralc, Cam, Captain Egghead, Dirk Dede, Fadi Mansour, Florian Pigorsch, Joe Poser, MrAmish, RJ Tracey, Robert Forster

Associate Producers

Jonathan, Juhan Sonin, Kai Siers, RikyM, Steve Hoos, Vlad

Thanks to Bytemark, who are providing the hosting and bandwidth for this episode’s audio file. Podcast cover art photo by GegenWind.


Today, I’m ending the show with the song Somebody to Love by TAGE.