This process of judging visa applicants based on the kind of posts on their connection's feed is having a chilling effect on the speech of people and is making them afraid of expressing their political views.
Do you wish to migrate to the United States of America? While you have a lot of avenues open for you in the states, you might want to take a deeper look at what you have posted on your social media accounts. The State Department earlier this year has started asking visa applicants to list their social media accounts with their applications. This is being done to check the applicant’s political point of views as well as the views of people you are friends with. According to a report by The Verge, the Obama-era Department of Homeland Security had initially suggested an “online presence” field for people requesting visa waivers. However, Trump administration quickly forged ahead with asking for social media data.
In a recent incident, an incoming Harvard freshman Ismail B. Ajjawi was denied entry to the United States because the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agent while questioning found some people on his friend list with political views that oppose the US. Several other cases like this are increasing day by day.
Cases like Ajjawi’s suggest that digital surveillance by the Customs and Border Protection agents are going beyond checking whether a potential immigrant is a criminal threat to the country or not. They are now checking their social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter to check their connections online. This process of judging visa applicants based on the kind of posts on their connection’s feed is having a chilling effect on the speech of people and is making them afraid of expressing their political views.
Sophia Cope, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation according to the report said, “There are lots of free speech and freedom of association issues with looking at someone’s social media, even to vet them to come to the US.”