Two of documentary film groups are suing the administration of President Donald Trump for requiring foreigners to hand over their social media account IDs, even pseudonymous ones, to U.S. officials when applying for a visa.
Trump's administration announced the new rule in 2018, and started enforcing it in 2019.
“The requirement grew out of President Trump’s campaign promise of 'extreme vetting' and his early executive orders that barred travel into the United States from several Muslim-majority nations,” reports Charlie Savage in the New York Times:
In particular, the lawsuit alleges, forcing people from authoritarian countries to disclose the pseudonyms they use to discuss politically sensitive matters could endanger them by creating a risk that the information gets back to their own governments. As a result, it said, they will be less likely either to express themselves on social media or to apply for visas.
“Many people use pseudonyms on social media so that they can speak anonymously about sensitive or controversial issues, and so that they can shield themselves or their families or associates from possible reprisals by state or private actors,” the plaintiffs wrote. “The registration requirement effectively conditions their eligibility for U.S. visas on their readiness to surrender their online anonymity.”
The complaint, filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, challenged both the State Department, which administers visa applications, and the Department of Homeland Security, which it says uses visa application data for other purposes, including administering immigration law.