Congress isn’t going to fix web2.

The new TikTok bill shows why. Better for devs and users to take it upon ourselves to build new networks.

Peter A. McKay
3 min readMar 17, 2024
Photo by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

Americans should have learned by now that we can’t defend our country by shredding its Constitution. If our adversaries are adversaries in the first place because “they hate our freedoms,” in the famous words of our president post-9/11, then it must also be true that we do the bad guys’ work for them when we steamroll freedoms ourselves.

Still, we continue to try. Witness the new bill in Congress to force a sale of Chinese-owned ByteDance, operator of TikTok. If a sale doesn’t take place within six months — probably an unrealistic timeframe compared to past tech mergers — then the bill would ban TikTok in the U.S. altogether.

That last condition is problematic as it conflicts with the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans currently using TikTok. But the ostensible reason why many members of Congress are OK with a possible ban is that it would prevent surveillance of American citizens by the Chinese Communist Party via ByteDance.

Because, you know, the CCP are authoritarians who hate things like our First Amendment. Thus we might have to ban tens of millions of people from the online forum of their choice.

Makes perfect sense, no?

Look, I’m skeptical of CCP influence on ByteDance myself. It’s a major reason I’m not on TikTok. But many other Americans feel differently, and they have a right to participate on that platform under the First Amendment if they choose.

It’s also demonstrably true that we’ve had egregious privacy and safety abuses and, yes, attacks on our national security by foreign adversaries via platforms like Facebook based right here in America. And Congress has done almost nothing about it except occasional grandstanding in hearings with tech executives.

But in terms of writing laws to actually fix the situation? Zilch, except for this TikTok proposal that singles out one company and leaves all the other problematic ones untouched.

Better that Congress should write clear regulations around user rights and data transparency for all the platforms, then enforce them fairly for everyone. Then, if TikTok or any other platform is enabling surveillance or other abuses, they should be penalized uniformly according to the rules.

Barring a sudden outbreak of such common sense in Congress, though, I think we need to maintain focus on building decentralized alternatives to web2 platforms like TikTok and Facebook. Unlike federal legislation, web3 is a separate solution — one entirely within the power of developers and users to implement and adopt — that cuts to the core problem of reclaiming control of our data.

To put it a different way, why should we continue to believe it makes more sense to regulate web2 than to replace it? The question becomes even more urgent when the would-be regulators reveal themselves, through measures like the TikTok bill, to be so profoundly clueless.

This post was adapted from my free email newsletter #w3w, which covers decentralization broadly defined. To get the full version in your inbox every Sunday, including additional headlines from around the web, subscribe here.



Peter A. McKay

Storyteller, thought leader, and marketer focused on blockchain/web3. I publish #w3w, a newsletter about decentralization. Ex-reporter for the Wall St Journal.