U.S. filmmakers launch lawsuit over State Department social media censorship rules

A group of filmmakers is suing the U.S. government over a request for visa applicants to provide details of their social media accounts,media reported. The lawsuit argues that the request violates the Constitution because it prevents applicants from speaking online and, on the contrary, discourages political speakers from entering the United States. The U.S. government has stepped up its surveillance of social media as part of President Donald Trump’s “extreme vetting” of immigration.

U.S. filmmakers launch lawsuit over State Department social media censorship rules

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After initially asking a small number of applicants to voluntarily provide this information, the U.S. State Department recently began requiring most visa applicants to list all social media accounts they have used in the past five years.

The lawsuit, filed by the Doc Society and the International Documentary Association, challenged the claim based on the First Amendment to the Constitution. The government can still monitor applicants’ accounts at any time long after the application process is complete, and applicants must even disclose the accounts they use under a pseudonym.

Social media can be a minefield for people traveling to the United States, because it’s easy for immigration officials to misunderstand what they post. Earlier this year, a Harvard freshman was barred from entering the United States, apparently because his friend posted an online criticism of the U.S. government. (He later succeeded in entering the school.) At the same time, there is little concrete evidence that enhanced scrutiny has had a positive impact on national security. This is part of an expanded border control that could affect not only non-U.S. citizens but also U.S. citizens. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security revealed that it wanted to expand the use of facial recognition to allow it to identify people entering or leaving the United States, including U.S. citizens, but later abandoned the decision amid criticism.

Some non-U.S. personnel have begun deleting social media content or stopping to express themselves online because they fear it will complicate their entry into the U.S., the plaintiffs said. Others decided not to work in the U.S. because they didn’t want to make their social media accounts public.

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