President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out a new requirement for most U.S. visa applicants that will require them to list the social media accounts they’ve used in the last five years. According to The Hill, a U.S. State Department official told Hill.tv the new policy started on Friday.
The new social media disclosure requirements are also required for those seeking temporary visas.
Applicants will also have the option to indicate that they don’t use social media, but the official explained that if an applicant reports that and it is later found out to be false, that “serious immigration consequences” could result.
The drop-down menu on the new visa application only includes mainstream social media sites right now, but that will change, the official explained. Soon, applicants will be able to list every social media platform that they’ve used.
The reason for the addition of social media network usage on the new applications is to bolster criminal background checks, allowing U.S. government officials to cross-reference applicants against various U.S. watchlists.
“This is a critical step forward in establishing enhanced vetting of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States,” the official explained.
“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.”
The new program comes from Trump’s executive order on “extreme vetting,” which was titled, “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.” The order was signed in March 2017 and the State Department announced their intent in March 2018 to eventually bring the program online.
Part of the new plan also involves applicants disclosing a more detailed history of previous travel, for the same reasons.
The ACLU criticized the plan to implement social media vetting last year, calling it “ineffective and deeply problematic.”
“It will infringe on the rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens by chilling freedom of speech and association, particularly because people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” the ACLU post said.
The ACLU post also highlighted the failures of previous pilot programs that used social media for vetting purposes and pointed to documents published by the Department of Homeland Security which proved that.
According to a Reuters report from last year, the new program will also require applicants to disclose five years of telephone numbers and email addresses. Applicants will also be asked if they’ve been deported from other countries. They would also be questioned about any terrorist activities that family members have been involved in.