Future US Immigrants Mandated to Hand Over Their Social Media History!
The Trump administration has announced that it plans to consider immigrants applying to come to the US hand over five years’ worth of social media history. This has set up a potential scouring of applicants’ Facebook and Twitter history, as the administration wants to do an in-depth background check of potential people coming into the country.
The action is following President Trump’s extreme stressing of “extreme vetting” of future immigrants and is also an extension of efforts by the previous administration to more closely scrutinize social media following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
The state department has submitted notices last week that the government plans to have nearly all visa applicants to the US submit five years of social media handles for specific platforms identified by the government, and candidates are also given the option to hand in handles that are not explicitly stated. The administration is expecting that this maneuver will affect nearly 15 million future immigrants to the United States, according to the stats.
This also involves applicants for legal permanent residency, but there are also exemptions for diplomatic and official visas, according to the State Department. The decision, however, will not take effect immediately, as the publication of the planned change to visa applications will start a 60-day clock for the public to comment on the said change.
Complaints arise regarding privacy
The plan to scour social media postings of immigration and visa applicants has made privacy and civil liberties advocates rise up in arms. In the past, they have been vocal in protesting against such measures, even going back as far as the Obama administration, though efforts to collect such information were on a more selective and voluntary basis back then.
Critics have complained that these actions are not only invasive of privacy rights but are also effectively limiting the legal immigration to the US by slowing the entire process down which in turn makes it burdensome and difficult to get accepted for a visa.
On the other side of the fence
On the opposite side of the spectrum, nevertheless, federal authorities also argue that these actions are necessary in order to improve national security. Aside from the five years of social media history, the applicants will also be asked to hand in previous telephone numbers, email addresses, prior immigration violations, and any family history that pertains to involvement in terrorist activities, according to the notice.
Since its early days, the Trump administration has demonstrated a desire to be more thorough in digging through the backgrounds and social media histories of foreign travelers, however, this move is the first that will formally require virtually all applicants who wish admission into the United States to disclose such information.
After the San Bernardino terrorist attack back in 2015, more attention has been focused on the social media use of foreign immigrants. Back then it was revealed that one of the attackers in said terrorist attack advocated jihad in posts on a private social media account under a pseudonym which authorities did not find before permitting her to get inside the US.
The current administration stops short of requiring passwords or access to the said social media accounts. However, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested that the measure was already being considered. The administration has been strict when it comes to its efforts regarding immigration or foreign travelers in general.
They claim that they do so in order to beef up national security, and the “extreme vetting” of those wanting to get inside the US is only a countermeasure to the multiple terrorist attacks that the country has experienced. This hurdle and the continuous travel ban are only the beginning of the lockdown.
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