Information may be gathered from the social media accounts, of people applying for a visa to enter the United States, according to a statement from the Trump administration. Facebook and Twitter details may be required of the visa applicants, according to the proposal, which has been initiated by the state department.
According to the proposal, information of the past five years would need to be disclosed of social media identities of the applicants, which would affect around 14.7 million people a year. Not only that, both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications are set to be part of the proposal which is said to alter the process significantly.
Telephone numbers, travel history, as well as email addresses going back to the last 5 years will be required for the application. Additionally, information of the applicant regarding relatives being involved in terrorist activities, and reasons for deportation from a country, if any, will be required.
The United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany are some of the countries whose citizen will not be affected by the proposal. These countries are granted a visa-free entry into the United States, but citizens from countries that are not included in the list such as China, India and Mexico, will have to go through the procedure if they intend to visit the country for whatever reason, be it work or travel.
The administration has claimed that potential extremists could be identified with the help of this proposal, after coming under criticism. In 2015, shootings in San Bernardino in the state of California cost 15 lives and social media was the center of attention. It was said that attackers had exchanged messages on a social platform, which signaled their radical mindset, but the signs were missed by the authorities.
In May of last year, certain rules were made to allow the officials to scan social media accounts. According to a state department official, the exercise could be carried out if the officials felt that a confirmation of identity was necessary, in order to preserve the national security of the country.
Proper vetting procedures were promised by President Donald Trump for foreigners entering the country and this proposal is a follow-up to that promise, which he said would help them fight terrorism.
Another state department official was quoted by a local New York newspaper, saying that emerging threats required newer standards for the purposes of screening people applying for visa to enter the U.S. He said that under current conditions, only a limited amount of information, regarding travel history, contact information, previous addresses and family members, is collected from the applicants, but the new proposal will strengthen the process and help identify further threats.
The proposal has been labelled as an invasion of privacy by civil liberties groups, who say this could damage the right to free speech. According to Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, people won’t be able to express themselves online, as they’ll be afraid of being misunderstood by government officials. Immigrants are discriminated against by the Trump administration by the broad use of the term ‘terrorist activities’, she added.