The Doc Society and International Documentary Association have filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration to challenge a policy that requires foreigners to include their social media accounts as part of their visa applications.
The State Department is asking xvisa applicants to list all their social media accounts they’ve had over the past five years. The lawsuit claims the policy violates federal law and goes against the Constitution.
“We believe it is both unconstitutional and illegal,” said Faiza Patel, a top lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The very fact the U.S. government is collecting social media identifiers sends a message to the whole world that we are watching what you say online.”
The lawsuit argues that the Trump administration’s social media policies have specifically imperiled their work with foreign filmmakers. Some of them have stopped using social media because they’re afraid their views could prevent U.S. officials from granting them a visa.
“Concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process, they self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the attorneys wrote.
The suit additionally claims that forcing foreigners to share their social media accounts could expose them to political retaliation, online trolling or surveillance from their governments.
Patel said that the scrutiny of applicants’ social media accounts could result in more invasive profiling of Muslims and other foreigners.
She referred to the social media reviews as a “juggernaut that’s been moving forward without much thought being given either to the efficacy of these social media surveillance programs, or the impact they have on fundamental rights of speech and association.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the social media accounts might not even be useful for government officials because social media is full of jokes and sarcasm. Patel said that the risk of misinterpreting someone’s thoughts is magnified by the fact that the accounts come from people across many cultures, countries and languages.
The State Department and Homeland Security Department, which both manage the country’s borders and immigration policies, have argued that the program is a critical tool for determining whether foreigners pose national security risks.