State Department wants to compel Visa applicants to provide their social media history as Trump’s promise to institute 'extreme vetting' of foreigners comes alive

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern, saying the move would have a “chilling” effect on freedom of speech and association.

The federal government is proposing US visa applicants and nearly everyone who seeks entry into the United States to be compelled to provide their social media identities, according to a State Department filing on Friday.

The proposal, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would see most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants compelled to list all social media identities, previously used telephone numbers, email addresses they have used in the past five years.

The information will be used to vet and identify them, according to the proposals, which would affect about 14.7 million people annually.

The proposals are line with President Donald Trump’s promise to institute 'extreme vetting' of foreigners entering the United States to prevent terrorism.

Previously, under rules instituted last May, consular officials were instructed to collect social media identifiers only when they determined “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a State Department official said at the time.

The State Department said then that the tighter vetting would apply only to those “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”

“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,”  Hina Shamsi, director ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” she added.

“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travellers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”

The new proposal was published in the Federal Register on Friday and the public has 60 days to comment on the revised procedures before the OMB approves or rejects them.

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