The Trump administration’s crackdown on the entry of possible terrorists on US soil continues as the administration is set to implement a new policy that would require visa applicants to divulge their social media usage.
Most visa applicants, including temporary visitors, will now need to list their social media usernames when filling out the online visa application form.
A U.S. State Department official told The Hill that if visa applicants lie about their usage of social media, they could face “serious immigration consequences.”
So even if applicants have the option to say that they do not use social media through the online form’s drop-down menu, the government will still find out if this is true or not. Currently, the drop-down menu only includes major social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter. Later on, visa applicants will be given the option to list other social media platforms as well.
According to the U.S. State Department official, the executive order is a major step forward in establishing enhanced vetting of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States.
A spokesperson for department said:
“This is a critical step forward in establishing enhanced vetting of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States…As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity. This will be a vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil.”
Social media has been found to be a major avenue for sharing terrorism sentiment and activity. Hence, the administration believes social media is now a good tool for screening out terrorists, public security threats, and other dangerous individuals and prevent them from entering the U.S. and achieving immigration benefits.
Visa applicants will now be further screened using their social media handles which will be included in the background check review done against the U.S. government’s watchlist for terrorists.
In addition to this, visa applicants will soon be asked to provide more information about their travel history as part of the screening process and the government’s strengthening of the visa applicants’ vetting process.
The Trump administration is ensuring that it will not suffer the same fate as the Obama administration when a terrorist Tashfeen Malik was granted a US visa in 2015. Later on, Malik and her U.S.-born husband killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California in 2015. Malik had been voicing her terrorist symphonies via social media. It is thought that the terrorist attack could have been prevented had the Obama administration examined Malik’s social media usage, even if it was under a pseudonym.
The ACLU has called the anti-terror measure, “deeply problematic“