Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Why does Trump want to check your social media accounts when applying for a visa to the U.S.?

To use visa applicants' social media to ensure the immigration process, can be a double-edged sword.


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A Venezuelan friend explained to me that, since she didn't have the legal papers stay in Mexico, she had to apply for a refugee visa. Her only problem, besides the waiting time, is that she cannot move either from Mexico City to another city nor abandon the country.

When requesting a refugee visa in Mexico, you only need to provide an email address. In the United States, the Trump administration has asked for access to the social media accounts of any visa applicant, not only those they currently own but those that they have opened in the last five years.

The U.S. government awards this measure to the protection of national security, as have other American governments on countless occasions, such as Bush, Reagan, etc.

"National security is our main priority when it comes to awarding visa applications," the government said, referring, of course, to a security notion based on keeping enemies away – understanding enemy as the faceless concept called terrorism.

Applicants will also have to provide five years of email addresses and phone numbers. These requirements, which previously only included the applicants marked for additional verification, will now affect 15 million visa applicants per year.

Is it really that important?

Actually, yes: what you say on social media can be censored by the biases or prejudices of others, including by immigration agencies in the United States.

Although ISIS uses social media to incite jihad - and the agencies manage to imprison them using the same means - in the case of civilians, giving a political opinion in favor or against the Trump administration while applying for a visa may result in self-censorship.

Censorship is also a form of coercion of liberties, and in the United States, it could be a direct form of restraint according to the First Amendment.

Another important point in obtaining these personal data is how they will be used. If it's deleted (ergo, confidential) it would not imply a more significant threat.

However, if governments use it to segment political marketing campaigns and use the data to reinforce hate speech against the enemy, instead it accelerates the destruction of democratic dialogue both in the public and virtual spaces.

The worst part is that this measure doesn't seem to be effective.

According to Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, "there is also no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair, especially in the absence of criteria to guide the use of social media information in the visa adjudication process."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has used social media for several years to monitor both immigrants and U.S. citizens.

In a recent report published by the department in conjunction with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, they expressed concern about the effectiveness of this type of monitoring.

Pilot programs of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) have already shown that inspectors face challenges in profiling people due to the analysis and interpretation of the context in which they publish information on social media.

However, there are always exceptions in censorship.

Only applicants for certain types of diplomatic visas are exempt from the requirements while the Trump government uses the vague and extensive term "terrorist activities" to discriminate against immigrants.


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