Image captures the arrest on April 13, 2023, by FBI officials of Jack Teixeira for the alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified US defense information.InternationalIndiaAfricaJames TweedieThe US government is tightening its grip over the internet, social media and free speech. Facebook* whistleblower Ryan Hartwig and former Google and YouTube software engineer Zach Vorhies reveal the dangers and implications.A US bill targeting the TikTok app is really a wider crackdown on online privacy and public scrutiny of government, two Big Tech whistleblowers have told Sputnik.The Restrict Act, currently working its way through the US Congress, has been touted as an attack on Chinese software developer ByteDance — whose US CEO Shou Zi Chew was hauled before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March.The legislation would allow the government to restrict access to apps from any firm it chooses — raising the prospect of its use to protect US firms from foreign competitors. But tech experts and free speech advocates fear it will open the door to a widespread crackdown against online critics of the White House.Ryan Hartwig said the legislation was “essentially the Patriot Act online” — referring to legislation passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that allowed unwarranted government wiretapping of US and foreign citizens’ phone lines.”It’s a horrible piece of legislation. Basically it’s not only banning TikTok, it’s giving the government authority to arrest people for anything they say online. It’s definitely clear that the government wants to continue to restrict free speech online,” Hartwig said. “It is really a problem. They are going to crack down.”The bill is ostensibly aimed at protecting children and teenagers from harmful content, which the former Facebook employee said had some validity. “But the Restrict Act does a lot more than just censor a few bad posts. It basically gives them blanket authority… and criminalizes any kind of political speech.””If I just attack them, if I say bad things about the president, it gives the government authority to arrest me.” Hartwig stressed. “The Restrict Act can punish people for whistleblowing on an illegal government action.”Just this week, 21-year-old US Air National Guard enlisted Airman Jack Teixeira was arrested as the suspect in the embarrassing Pentagon leaks of Ukrainian plans for its yet-to-materialize spring counter-offensive. Teixeira was traced through an online chat group for video gamers on the Discord app. The whistleblower said its users should “be concerned.”The ‘blockchain’ technology used by Bitcoin and other concerns — essentially a variant of mass file-sharing for online data — could protect users’ rights, he said.
"There are websites that are using blockchain technology to avoid censorship, which is great. So there's one called Bastion that is Blockchain-based and cannot be deleted off the internet," Hartwig explained, calling the technology "the future of the Internet."
But protecting oneself from government snooping is difficult for the average casual web surfer.”Unless you’re a tech nerd, and you have all kinds of things for it,” Hartwig says. “It starts with using a different operating system, because most people use Microsoft Windows. So a lot are moving over to Linux, which has less vulnerabilities,” he said.Using a virtual private network (VPN) protects users from advertisers gleaning their web history, but “it’s hard to prevent that from tracking us because I’m sure the NSA has tools that can bypass pretty much anything,” he added. “They probably know exactly what we’re talking about.”
"People are waking up to government censorship and surveillance," Hartwig insisted. "It's important for us to realize that the government is not our friend… If that bill passes, then the United States will have become essentially a police state. We will no longer be a free country."
AmericasPentagon Leaks: GOP Congresswoman Weighs in on ‘Who’s the Real Enemy’ of the US14 April, 06:08 GMTZach Vorhies emphasized that the point of online snooping was not to eavesdrop on citizens, but to tar them by association with known suspects.”We know from the Snowden leaks that the NSA tracks by default the endpoints of communication. It turns out that the most valuable part of a communication is not the content that is said but identifying who is talking to who in order to build a relationship graph.”Even AI assistants like Amazon Alexa have been used to record their users’ conversations. “Police have used court orders to grab audio content from these Alexa’s when they were supposedly not in active recording mode,” the tech expert noted.Vorhies agreed that users of internet chats like Discord and 4Chan should be “concerned”, because “no corporate or public space is safe for private speech anymore. That ship has sailed long ago.”He said the government and major tech corporations were “strong-arming companies to employ AI monitoring of content.” “We saw this in the 2020 election when the iPhone app store kicked off Parler for not integrating content-approved moderation,” Vorhies noted. “It looks like the government is going to play a soft hand for the meantime and let the big tech organizations employ massive censorship through their terms of service.”The tech guru said it would take about a day for someone with the coding know-how to write software for a “private space” on the internet, which government agencies would be unable to crack.”It’s my expectation that the elite families that control governments and military are using such obscure private spaces to communicate,” he ventured. “I can’t stress enough what an exciting time we are entering. It’s also terrifying as we are entering an age of so many unknowns. It’s obvious that Pandora’s box has been opened, and the elites are putting both hands in and grasping tightly.”* Facebook is banned in Russia for extremist activities