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In a letter to DHS, 40 civil society groups challenge intrusive social media screening known as extreme vetting.

Defending Rights & Dissent joined the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Democracy and Technology ( CDT), and 40 other civil society organizations, submitting a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, urging him to address the risks of the Department’s intrusive and discriminatory social media inspections at ports of entry. The coalition also requests a meeting with Acting Secretary Wolf’s office and the acting Privacy Officer to discuss their concerns. 

Earlier this year, the State Department implemented an extreme vetting policy that requires visa applicants to submit their social media account information for inspection. The coalition’s letter refers to reports that CBP has penalized individuals for others’ online speech, using social media content as a basis for denying student and other visas. 

Freedom of speech and association are fundamental American values. DHS’s expanding use of social media to assess who is permitted to enter the country undermines those values, and will harm not only people trying to visit and immigrate to the U.S. but also the American citizens and residents who benefit from interacting with them in person and online. We call on DHS today to disclose more information about how it is collecting and using social media data to vet visa applicants and how it will protect core constitutional and human rights.

Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Senior Counsel, Liberty and National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice.