The state department has issued a new rule that requires US visa applicants to surrender their social media accounts at the time of application. The new proposal focuses on the major US platforms including; Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube. In addition covers the Chinese sites; Douban, QQ, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo and Youku; the Russian social network VK; Twoo, created in Belgium; and Ask.fm, out of Latvia.
During his presidential campaign, Trump assured an increase in security in the Visa vetting process for those wishing to enter the United States.
This new requirement affects people visiting the US from Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. Countries that the US already grant visa-free travel will not be affected by this. These countries include Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and South Korea.
Is this fair? Is this a violation in our freedom of speech? Is this like, the most creepy “Big Brother” tactic ever?
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, has argued that. “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. 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.”
Meanwhile, Facebook who is under tremendous hot water for their public scandal with Cambridge analytics, has made clear that they do not agree with any attempt to collect social media accounts from those wishing to visit the US. But this is Facebook, the company who has earned billions of dollars on selling their customers data.
This new part of the visa vetting process comes about from so many recent leads that have been discovered that possibly could have prevented terrorist attacks. Namely the attack in San Bernardino, CA that happened in 2015. Before he committed the gruesome attack, the husband and wife had been self-radicalizing themselves online and officials according to the New York Times have admitted that they missed these signs.
While the intentions of the new rules are obvious it does leave some questions to outsiders wanting to travel into the US. To what extent is their freedom of speech still relevant? What are the guidelines of being accepted or rejected? A user on China’s largest social media platform made a claim that, “We Chinese have learned well enough the lessons to be drawn from isolation. Now it’s America’s turn.”
We’ll have to see how this plays out and for how long….