New Social Media Screening for U.S. Visitors Goes Into Effect

June 1, 2017, 1:49 PM UTC

The Trump Administration, which vowed to implement “extreme vetting” at the borders, has implemented part of a controversial plan requiring some U.S. visa applicants to disclose their social media history before entering the country.

The plan, which requires applicants to disclose user names for social media platforms they’ve used in the past five years, was approved by the Office of Management and Budget on May 23 and is now in effect.

Here is a screenshot from the new form, which will be provided to those visa applicants who officials believe require extra scrutiny:

A State Department officials told Reuters, which first reported the news, that border agents will ask for the social media details, along with other background information, in the event “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.” According to the new form, the failure to answer the questions will not necessarily bar applicants from admission to the United States.

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The Department of Homeland Security began asking visitors for social media information—including Facebook and LinkedIn accounts—on a voluntary basis last year, and the Trump Administration has since moved aggressively to expand the vetting tactic. Homeland Security officials in April said they intend to expand the social media screening to citizens of close U.S. allies, including Britain and Australia, and to instruct more visitors to share their contact lists and other information from their phones.

Supporters of the measures believe social media can supply important information about possible terrorist networks, and help keep dangerous individuals out of the country.

The approach is deeply unpopular with civil liberties advocates, however, who warn that the new measures are deeply intrusive, and will lead other countries to demand Americans share their social media profiles at foreign borders.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear if the new process will improve security, especially as aspiring terrorists may simply stay silent about any compromising social media accounts.

As for U.S. citizens, border agents can’t bar them from entering the country even if they refuse to share social media activity or other information from their phones. But they do have the power to detail Americans in “secondary inspection” and to confiscate devices.

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