The U.S. state department recently proposed an idea in which visa applicants would provide their social media history. Social media information would include anything from Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Youtube and more. It would also expand to networks outside of the country like China’s Sina Weibo and Russia’s VK. In this case, everyone entering the U.S. and applying for visas would be judged based off of their social media accounts. These applicants would have to give information about which social media outlets they had been using for the past five years.
Not only would this drastically affect the application process, it would also affect around 14.7 million people each year. This knowledge would inevitably determine whether or not the immigrant or non-immigrant visas would be given.
Information that applicants are already asked includes travel history, email addresses and phone numbers of the past five years. On top of that, it would be mandatory to say whether they had ever been deported or had any relatives that committed terrorism.
According to a state department representative, officials were allowed to search a person’s social media only if they thought “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”
After Trump assured to American citizens “extreme vetting” of foreign travelers wishing to enter the U.S., harsh proposals like this one had been made. Although under the aim to protect the country from terrorism, it only works to create more issues for harmless people who want to enter the U.S.
The state department explained, “We already request limited contact information, travel history, family member information and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”
They also stated, “Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats.”
Unfortunately travelers from countries where visa-free travel status is not given, such as China and Mexico, will have difficulty even visiting the U.S. for a holiday or visiting family.
Many argue that this proposal would hinder free speech and invade privacy. Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union believed that “people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official.”
She continued on by saying, “We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong.”
Now, travelers will have more to worry about and will be put under stricter regulations if the proposal is established. How much “vetting” does the U.S. need?