The US government is telling that nearly all applicants for a visa to enter the United States — an estimated 14.7 million people a year will be asked to submit their social media user names for the past five years, under proposed rules. According to a filing by a State department on Friday.
The proposal covers 20 social media platforms. Most of them are based in the United States: Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube. But several are based overseas: the Chinese sites Douban, QQ, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo and Youku; the Russian social network VK; Twoo, which was created in Belgium; and Ask.fm, a question-and-answer platform based in Latvia.
During his campaign, President Trump promised “extreme vetting” of people seeking to enter the United States, and last March the State Department directed consular officers worldwide to step up scrutiny of visa applicants.
But the new proposal would add a tangible new requirement for millions of people who apply to visit the United States for business or pleasure, including citizens of such countries as Brazil, China, India and Mexico.
Citizens of roughly 40 countries to which the United States ordinarily grants visa-free travel will not be affected by the requirement.
Those countries include major allies like Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea.
In addition, visitors traveling on diplomatic and official visas will mostly be exempted.
As news of the plan emerged on Friday, so did criticism.
“This attempt to collect a massive amount of information on the social media activity of millions of visa applicants is yet another ineffective and deeply problematic Trump administration plan,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “It will infringe on the rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens 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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern, saying the move would have a “chilling” effect on freedom of speech and association.
“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” Hina Shamsi, director ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travelers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”
The new proposal was on Friday published in the Federal Register. The public has 60 days to comment on the revised procedures before the OMB approves or rejects them.
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