A new puzzling proposal put forward by the Trump administration would have long-term US business and tourism visa holders from China asked to disclose their social media handles before visiting the United States.
The question would be asked online as part of the Electronic Visa Update System in which all Chinese holders of 10-year visas to the US are enrolled.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers could then use that social media information for evaluation before the visa-holder arrives in the country.
“The collection of social media identifiers will not be used to prevent travel based on an applicant’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation,” Jennifer Evanitsky, CBP spokeswoman, told Politco. “The social media provider will not be asked to violate any privacy settings or policies.”
Additionally, handing over their social media information would be optional and refusing to do so would not negatively affect a visitor’s chances at getting in the country, the CBP said in a notice regarding the proposal.
Considering those constraints, it’s not clear how useful this change would be. Anyone wanting to hide something from CBP officers could delete parts of their profile, change privacy settings or “forget to include a social media platform.
Meanwhile, it’s also not clear which social media platforms the proposal would cover. Late last year, Barack Obama rolled out a similar system for social media checks under the Visa Waiver Program, giving appliants from a variety of countries including those in Europe, the option of disclosing their social media handles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Obviously, most of those sites are blocked in China. Chinese web users have their own sites that aren’t terribly accessible for Western users.
The proposal was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. A 60-day comment period will follow in which the public is encouraged to voice their concerns and suggest revisions.
The Chinese community in the US appears certain to make a few “suggestions,” as the proposal has left many spooked that the only thing it will do is contribute to a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment around the country.
“As a civil rights organization, we fear that proposals such as the proposed social media check will be largely ineffective as a national security screen and will serve primarily to allow the discriminatory targeting of Chinese immigrants and visitors at border checkpoints,” the advocacy group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), told The Huffington Post.
The nonprofit has pointed to xenophobic rhetoric spewed out by Donald Trump as helping to ignite a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in the US. Trump has regularly blamed America’s problems on both China and immigrants. Earlier this month, his infamous “Muslim ban” was struck down twice in court, infuriating the fledgling president. He’s expected to sign a revised version of the executive order later this week — though reports are that he hasn’t revised much.
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