Twitter and Reddit filed a mica brief in support of a lawsuit challenging a change in U.S. government rules,media reported. The rules are understood to require visa applicants to disclose their social media accounts. The lawsuit was filed by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Brennan Justice Center and the law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett.
They are trying to overturn the State Department’s request that visa applicants disclose their social media behavior and the rules requiring the retention and dissemination of those records.
In a pro-litigation filing, Twitter and Reddit said the social media policy would undoubtedly cool off a flood of speech and that the rules violate the First Amendment’s right to “speak and contact privately.”
Twitter and Reddit, which have more than 560 million users, said their users — many of whom use false names on their platforms — were forced to waive their anonymous privacy rights in order to enter the United States.
Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s head of Americas policy, said the social media rules violated users’ rights and were proud to support them on key legal issues. Ben Lee, Reddit’s general counsel, called the rule an intrusive overreach by the government.
It is unclear how many visa applicants have been rejected for social media content. But since the social media rules came into effect, there have been instances of people being denied entry because of other people’s social media posts. At the time, 17-year-old Ismail Ajjawi was a freshman at Harvard University, but U.S. border officials found photos of some of his social media friends on his phone — not his own — and searched them, before he was denied entry at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Abed Ayoub, director of law and policy at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Council, told TechCrunch at the time that Ajjawi’s case was not actually isolated. A week later, TechCrunch learned that another man had also been denied entry because a distant acquaintance had sent a WhatsApp message.