The US government wants those applying to it for visa to submit their social media information for five years to the date of the application. This comes after US president Donald Trump’s promise of “extreme vetting”. The US state department has always asked for personal details like, family member information, travel history and certain contact information.
It maintains that the new rule is for better scrutiny in view of national security. This will require around 14.7 million people annually to submit their detail. ‘Extreme vetting’ was an important plank in Trump’s massaging of his core electorate’s xenophobia. Since 2017, various US departments have had to provide a ‘uniform baseline’ to curb illegal immigration.
A drop-down menu in the department of state website asks for details from your Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram accounts, as of now—its scope shall be extended further. The applicant will have to provide her username or user handle, if used for the last five years from the date of application. However, she will not have to provide passwords, and privacy settings will not be tampered with. Though, unless the state department is able to hack into the accounts or arm-twist the social media companies into sharing data, it is hard to see how this helps the US’s scrutiny.
Also, what is the parameter of acceptability for entry to the US—will sharing/liking American Idiot scuttle the chances of one landing a US visa or will it be criticising Trump’s policies and statements? Also, will the policy make room for a later-day nuancing of one’s political stand, from a radical to a moderate position? In any case, it will always be a violation of the US’s First Amendment principles, one that can be challenged in a court of law in that country.