You’ve probably heard it said a lot; what you put on social media matters. How you present yourself online can affect things much more important than your social life. For many, it’s ruined their chances of getting a particular job, which is already pretty bad. But now, even the US government will require you to share your social media info in order to apply for visas, so the stakes of what you put on Facebook or Twitter has never been higher.
Before anyone freaks out too much, it’s worth noting that this screening process probably won’t care too much about drunk photos, embarrassing selfies, or other poor choices. Like phone monitoring, the government doesn’t really care what any of its citizens or hopeful immigrants are doing in their free time, short of crime or terrorism.
This idea was proposed in March of 2018, though it was briefly mentioned back in 2015 as well. Now, the vast majority of visa applicants will have to share the last five years of their social media history. This of course includes all of the account names that you’ve had for those five years. For now, the mandate only covers select social media services; the most popular ones, naturally. But applicants are urged to voluntarily share info if they’ve been using less mainstream sites and services for their social media.
That said, this mandate doesn’t end solely at social media; applicants will also be expected to submit previous phone numbers and email addresses, as well as travel info and any family involvement in crime or terrorism. The only people exempt from submitting all this info will be some diplomats and dignitaries.
Before now, this type of info was only required from individuals that visited or were from areas with large amounts of terrorism, but the end goal of the mandate is the same now as it was then. The point is to try and identify extremists that have made troubling statements online, or have discussed potentially dangerous ideologies.
Needless to say, this new mandate is going to have a significant effect on many, many individuals that travel outside of the country, as well as those that want to get in it. However, its effectiveness completely depends on the honesty of the applicants, which we all know could be a major problem. A State Department Official stated that anyone caught lying could face severe immigration consequences, but whether or not that will serve to deter people from lying remains to be seen.
Not to mention, if someone is lying, there’s no guarantee that they will be discovered within a reasonable time frame, since the system counts on profiles being relatively easy to find even if someone was lying.
Regardless, there is no doubt that some people will be upset by the notion of less privacy in their private lives and more government involvement, but the purpose of this system is to make things safer for all of us.