The US State Department submitted a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget on Friday that would require most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants – about 14.7 million people a year – to supply them with a list of all their social media identities from the past five years.
That’s the US State Department combing through your shitty Twitter jokes/hobby Instagram posts in order to vet your suitability for entree into the Land of the Free(ish).
The proposal would also require you to hand over all previously used phone numbers, email addys and international travel history for the same five-year period, including whether or not you’d been deported or removed from any country (looking at you UK overstayers). Applicants would also be required to say if any family members had been involved in terrorist activities.
Luckily for us ‘Strayans, if we’re headed to the States for less than three months for business or tourism we – like Brits, Germans, Koreans, more – are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which doesn’t require all this extra dross. Not so lucky are India, China and Mexico.
In May 2017, consular officials were instructed to collect info on social media identities when “such information is required to conduct more rigorous national security vetting“. Now it’ll be for almost everybody! Whoopee!
The American Civil Liberties Union is not into the proposal, saying the changes would have a “chilling” effect on freedom of speech and association.
Hina Shamsi, director of ACLU’s National Security Project said:
People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official.
We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term a ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong.
There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travellers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.
There’s now 60 days for the public to comment on the revised procedures before the Office of Management and Budget makes a decision on the matter.
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