U.S. visa applicants will be required to disclose their social media accounts.
According to recent media reports, the State Department requests for some visa applicants to hand over information related to their various social media accounts will now extend to nearly all applicants. This will include those traveling to the U.S. for education or business.
The wider application of the Trump administration policy to request information that includes an individual’s social media history was originally proposed last year. This new policy may affect as many as 15 million immigrant and non-immigrant applicants.
Per U.S.-based news reports, the new policy was put into effect already last week. The State Department, however, has not yet officially recognized its implementation.
Not surprisingly, the new requirements on entry into the United States triggered some critical responses. Already last year when the policy was first proposed, director of the ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi declared that collection of visa applicants’ social media information was “yet another ineffective and deeply problematic Trump administration plan.” According to Shamsi, a blanket policy of social media inspection “will infringe on the rights of immigrants […] by chilling freedom of speech and association, particularly because people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official.”
From a purely legal perspective, these objections are difficult to understand, considering the fact that immigrants trying to gain entry into the U.S. simply do not have the same rights as Americans. Furthermore, if there are for instance employment positions that require social-media screening due to the high sensitivity of the position, why should legal entrance to America be less demanding?
But all that aside, the policy of social media screening is unfortunately an absolutely necessary step when considering the current environment of global security threats.
As Europe’s predicament has demonstrated, the threat of jihadists entering the West under the guise of legitimate immigration is real. The sad fact is that the same platforms used by people around the globe to expand their social horizons and promote their online business presence are also used by militants to promote their extremist agenda. This phenomenon has existed for years and has only increased in its potency and effectiveness. Participation with or even strong ties to these online forums are strong indicators of radicalization.
Ignoring this reality would be simply negligent.