News Brief

Visa applicants to US to submit social media details

New plans unveiled by the Trump administration will require visa applicants to the United States to submit details about the social media accounts they have used in the last five years.

According to the new State Department policy, which was rolled out last week, most visa applicants, including temporary visitors, will be required to list their social media accounts on platforms like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Applicants who do not use social media will be offered the opportunity to say so, but, according to one U.S. official, those who lie about their social media use could face “serious immigration consequences” as a result.

“This is a critical step forward in establishing enhanced vetting of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States,” the official told Hill.TV. “As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity. This will be a vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil.”

The new policy originates from a March 2017 executive order issued by President Trump, which was intended to institutionalize the “extreme vetting” of visa applicants. In the future, visa applicants will also be required to submit more extensive details about their previous travel history.

Civil liberties groups have been quick to highlight their fears over the new measures. “This is a dangerous and problematic proposal, which does nothing to protect security concerns but raises significant privacy concerns and First Amendment issues for citizens and immigrants,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, told the New York Times. “Research shows that this kind of monitoring has chilling effects, meaning that people are less likely to speak freely and connect with each other in online communities that are now essential to modern life.”

The U.S. government has previously requested social media details from a small number of people who have been identified for further examination. This group of around 65,000 applicants included those who had traveled to areas controlled by groups designated as terrorists.