Two documentary film organizations sued the Trump administration last week over its “extreme vetting” policy that visa applicants disclose their social media accounts across twenty platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Under the policy, introduced this May, foreign visitors’ information is able to be circulated both within the US government and abroad. The lawsuit was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett on behalf of Doc Society and the International Documentary Association (IDA).
The plaintiffs argue that the rule, applicable to nearly fifteen million visa seekers each year, violates the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act. “The Registration Requirement is the cornerstone of a far-reaching digital surveillance regime that enables the US government to monitor visa applicants’ constitutionally protected speech and associations not just at the time they apply for visas, but even after they enter the United States,” reads the complaint, filed against US secretary of state Michael Pompeo and acting secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf. The suit continues by stating that the requirement violates the right to free speech and cultural exchange of filmmakers, artists, and cultural producers, who often rely on online anonymity to conduct research, share their work, and communicate with audiences. The complaint can be read in full here.
Christoper Finan of the National Coalition Against Censorship told Hyperallergic: “American citizens would not stand for the government monitoring their social media accounts, and no foreign visitors should be subjected to it either.”