back to article Twitter, Reddit and pals super unhappy US visa hopefuls have to declare their online handles to Uncle Sam

Twitter, Reddit, and the Internet Association on Thursday filed a legal brief in support of a challenge to the US State Department's policy of requiring visa applicants to disclose their social media handles and profiles. The State Department policy was introduced in 2017 and was criticized at the time as a deterrent to free …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...pilot programs to gather social media accounts failed to establish ...

    ... the data had value to identify security threats.

    So, just like all the other mass slurpage programs, then.

    If it stands, this'll just create new markets for the bad actors (forgers) to enter the digital sphere for other bad actors (terrists!) to fake up benign on-line personas. Or they'll DIY; it's trivial to create as many SM accounts as you like.

    Inappropriate and ineffective, like so much government conduct these days.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But

    I don't got no steenking social media accounts!

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: But

      If you dont hand them over with password, when you arrive you go to jail, if thats what they want. They already know you have them.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: But

        No, but seriously, I actually don't.

        1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: But

          Except for your El Reg membership, you mean.

          1. EVP Bronze badge
            Trollface

            Re: But

            Indeed, having El Reg account is highly suspicious. Oops, forgot to tick the ‘Post anonymously’ box. Oh well, they’ll probe everybody at the border anyway... especially Anonymous Cowards xp

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Genossen, wir mussen alles wissen."

    "Comrades, we must know everything."

    Erich Mielke, Head of the East German Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatsicherheit), better known as The Stasi

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Genossen, wir mussen alles wissen."

      Yes, it's almost as if someone high up in the US government saw the film 'Das Leben der Anderen' ('The Lives Of Others') and thought it was a fantastic idea...

      1. Len Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: "Genossen, wir mussen alles wissen."

        True, although nowadays people happily pay Google or Amazon to introduce smart microphones to their households themselves. The Stasi could only dream of that.

  4. Pier Reviewer

    Question (not a Merkin)

    Does the Constitution extend rights to people that aren’t American citizens? If I’m applying for a visa I’m not a US citizen - do I benefit from US constitutional rights at that stage?

    1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

      Re: Question (not a Merkin)

      no idea but probably not. however Americans are entitled to the protections of their constitution in whichever country they happen to be in.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: Question (not a Merkin)

        "however Americans are entitled to the protections of their constitution in whichever country they happen to be in."

        Dont tell them that they will be wanting to carry guns down Whitehall. The American Constitution ends at the boarders of the US, Americans are subject to the rules of the country they are in.

        1. newspuppy

          Re: Question (not a Merkin)

          just to clarify one minor detail. Yes. Americans are subject to the rules of the country they are in. Yet.. There are laws that apply to Americans OUTSIDE the US. Of these there are several, one of which is the PROTECT ACT.

          So.. for example... even though it is legal in the UK to have sex with someone from 16 (as long as a position of trust is not involved)... it is ILLEGAL for US citizen or resident to do so. And subject to prosecution in the United States.

          from: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/arrest-detention/crimes-against-minors.html

          <QUOTE>

          Crimes Against Minors Abroad

          U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of foreign countries. Furthermore, some laws are prosecutable in the United States regardless of local law.

          Under the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 (PROTECT Act), it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad.

          Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 with the intent to entice, encourage, offer, or solicit any person to engage in any criminal sexual activity, among other things, the production of child pornography.

          <END QUOTE>

          Other laws of course are for foreign nationals (physical as well as corporate) that 'violate' USA embargo's against Cuba... Iran... etc...

          The United States is a complex country....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Question (not a Merkin)

            So, not entitled to the protections of the constitution.

            Laws of their land apply to them in what ever country they go to, like most countries. So you will be prosecuted if found out that you went to another country to do or have done something that would have been illegal to do so in your own country.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Question (not a Merkin)

          >Dont tell them that they will be wanting to carry guns down Whitehall.

          They do already. When the Prez is in town.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Question (not a Merkin)

      AFAIK constitutional protections extend to anyone in the US, whether citizens or not. So if you visit as a tourist, have a green card etc you are covered. I'm not sure about illegal aliens.

      If you are applying for a visa from outside the country, you are not covered

    3. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Question (not a Merkin)

      Yes, no, maybe.

      Or, more likely, only when it suits the authorities.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Question (not a Merkin)

      Short summary:

      U.S. Citizens: Covered.

      Noncitizens inside the U.S.: Covered. The Fourteenth amendment extends the rights to all "persons", which has been interpreted to mean everybody, including illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants can say everything they like as they're deported.

      U.S. Citizens outside the U.S.: They are covered by those protections as far as the U.S. is concerned, but they have to follow the laws of whatever country they're in. For example, if the U.S. decides to search their stuff, they still need a warrant.

      Noncitizens outside the U.S.: Basically, the U.S. doesn't give them any rights whatsoever. This applies to visa applicants and basically everybody. Whatever they want to do to you, they feel they have a right to do to you.

      Note: Certain areas in control of the U.S. are not considered parts of the U.S., including Guantanamo Naval Base, Diego Garcia shared base, and other bases operated in whole or in part by the American government located outside the boundaries of the U.S. If you end up on one of those, you have no rights and they'll probably show you exactly how fun that can be.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question (not a Merkin)

      It's not a question to answer in a forum comment, but basically where it says "person" it means everyone, where it says "resident" it means anyone living there, where it says "citizen" it means someone who has citizenship (or often, an equivalent status) and so on. Then there is also internal law to consider as well as state law, and jurisprudence at all levels, customs and uses, etc.

      So as with everything in law: TL;DR, it depends.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question (not a Merkin)

        s/internal law/interna'l law/ → international law

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Honest guv, my handle is Anonymous Coward

    1. The_Idiot

      Um...

      ... given all the comments in all the places that 'Anonymous Coward' has made, you're pretty certain not to get a visa then. And since they now know who you are - listen for the black helicopters, perhaps?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You think you're joking, but every comment I have ever posted on this site has had the "post anonymously" box ticked.

      (including this one, obvs)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Judge: ‘OK, let me then read what you have posted on this Internet site called The Register... murmur.. oh man... murmur... really bad.... murmur... that’s enough for me!”

      You: ‘But but but...’

      Judge: ‘Look, I appreciate you being honest about writing all this stuff. I’m afraid I still have to extend your stay in the US of A a bit. Three Rivers or Texarkana?”

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Clearly its a program created by politicians who don't understand the internet and social media platforms in general. They think that terrors are going to say here is my Twitter account with all my posts about death to America and how i intend to kill the president when I get my visa.

    1. newspuppy

      Criminals/Terrorists do not make it a habit of being honest with the authorities... so.. what shall happen if I forget my handle on the register... (or another site I may have used in the past that I do not use anymore....) Am I now a criminal as I effectively lied about what handles I used? According to past prosecutions by the USA omitting information is lying and a prosecutable offense. They used the inaccurate information on a visa application to revoke citizenship of ex-Nazi concentration camp officers. Of course, the ex-Nazi Rocket scientists were given citizenship and ... kept about....

      And is a terrorist going to care about lies?

      Sad that politicians think they can legislate goodness/peace.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But try to get a visa if you haven't been following the God Emperor on twitter since before 2016.

        Those who joined the Nazi party after it rose to power in March 1933 were called March Violets because they only appeared above ground then - and so weren't true "patriots". There was a black market in early low number party memberships to show you were a true supporter.

        I suspect there will be a thriving business in media handles of people who are careful to only ever follow the true prophets on Fox News

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right. Never going there again.

    The trouble is, I made that resolution in 2002 or so, meaning that I have severely depleted stocks of umbrage by now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Right. Never going there again.

      I try to reduce my visits to the US to an absolute minimum. At the current rate on average once every ten years. It's sad for my father in law who still lives in the US. We're hoping to get him out of there when he retires, though.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Right. Never going there again.

        I try to reduce my visits to the US to an absolute minimum.

        So far I've been able to keep it to less than one in the last five decades.

        1. Richard Jones 1
          WTF?

          Re: Right. Never going there again.

          You are doing a bit better than me, I last visited in the early 1990s for work purposes. I'm retired now and apart from not wanting to go back given what it has become under the so-called president, health insurance would be far too much of a financial challenge, even without the damned PRC's coronavirus.

  8. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Land of the .....

    Free

    If you got a certificate with that, return it now.

    It's a pithy phrase though, maybe reggers could come up with a replacement for the ineligible 'free'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Land of the .....

      Corporate?

    2. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: Land of the .....

      It is the land of the free, just other people live there too.

  9. Mark192 Silver badge

    Why would we question our visitors' love of America?

    Somewhere, in some alternate reality, is a USA that didn't spend decades bombing the fuck out of people and is looked at in adoration by the people of the new democracies in the Middle East and of China.

    "Why would we question our visitors' love of America?" said the polite border guard "the world loves us!"

    And he was right.

  10. RedCardinal

    >>by requiring individuals applying for visas to disclose their identifiers on twenty platforms, including Twitter, Reddit, and a number of the platforms represented by the Internet Association

    And if you didn't declare them on your Visa app, how would they know you had any at all anyway. You just say that you don't use social media and they're not going to know any different.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      And if you didn't declare them on your Visa app, how would they know you had any at all anyway. You just say that you don't use social media and they're not going to know any different.

      Much the same as when the old visa waiver questions asked 'Are you a terrorist?'. But in an IT age, they could use data/traffic analysis to try and match visitors to profiles. Then if you lied, cancel visa & deport/fine/send to nearest black site.

      From watching a few vids about how border guards work, I guess a lot of it is just to catch people entering on a tourist visa, but then discovering they've been telling their friends how excited they are about the new job. People are strange. One tourist was asked why they'd got 50 CV printouts with them. For some reason, the officer was a little sceptical about the purpose for the visit.

    2. Aitor 1

      Federal crime

      The problem is, it would be a federal crime.. the same as if you get asked by federal agents "hey, do you have a usb stick on you?" If you happen to say 2, and had a third with say porn, there you have it, federal crime (and this happened already.. google it)

      Wakipedia link:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_fraud

      So this is essentially supression of free speech.

    3. Richard Jones 1
      Unhappy

      I always though it was one of those lovely 'trick' questions. They if they can show some error or lie, they have got you fair and square. Watch out for:

      'Such as XXX, TTT, YYY, or any other similar entity.'

      Answer No and even if it was only Granny's family pictures, they have got you on a lie and nothing can stop the sky falling.

  11. Deliberatus1

    not all speech is protected

    Speech advocating comitting a crime is not protected speech.

    Speech advocating overthrowing the national government is not protected.

    As a practical matter, any nation has the right to take steps to identify foreign

    powers and/or persons who are enemies, willing and/or advocating hostile actions against

    said country.

    Such persons SHOULD be identified, and barred from entry- and if detected as already here,

    deported in irons to drive the point home that we recognize them as enemies.

    Of course, as psyops is a weapon class of war, we COULD just recognize such foreign nationals

    within our country as unlawful combatants- And of course, they could plead to be plain clothed

    official agents of nation X, whom would immediately disavow them. THAT is a VERY lonely

    predicament to be in.

    All of which is an act of war.

    In short, shut up if you feel that way and wish to come here (but then why are you coming?) or you are a FRACKING FOOL.

    OR, stay home.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: not all speech is protected

      If you say on the internet that you're going to commit crimes or cause civil unrest, obviously that's going to hamper your ability to enter another country.

      But what if you were barred entry because you leaned the wrong way left or right, politically, or you are friends with someone who knows someone whose brother is a bad person, or if you disagreed with a policy of the current or past administration?

      That's starting to sound more like Iran or China than a free country.

      Hopefully you can see that it's not as clear cut as you think it is.

      C.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: not all speech is protected

      "Speech advocating comitting a crime is not protected speech."

      Donald Trump does that all the time, and claims it is protected.

      "Speech advocating overthrowing the national government is not protected."

      Donald Trump does that quite regularly recently, although with state governments rather than himself, and claims it is protected.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: not all speech is protected

        Actually, he doesn't. If you listen carefully or read the transcripts, he says things that any reasonable person would infer as to mean what you say above but always, always is said in way that leaves him an "out". Her is NEVER explicit in those sorts of claims. It only sounds like he is rambling on like a buffoon because that's what he wants you to think.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: not all speech is protected

          I'm not sure any of that would pass the "reasonable person" test in court if it was said by a normal person.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: not all speech is protected

            Agreed. But DT isn't normal at the best of times and has the bestest, bigglyest lawyers.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a pity that I refuse to travel to the US

    (and this has been the case for over 25 years)

    Because I was looking forward to listing my online affiliations, starting with PornHub, barelylegalteens.com, YouPorn, ...

    Not sure I would have mentioned ElReg though.

  13. jospanner Bronze badge

    We all live in a fascist regime

    A fascist regime

    A fascist regime

  14. Dedobot

    Good. With my 15yrs old and active account in a an well known progun site, I will be awarded not visa but with citizenship directly :-)

    (sarcasm)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear, not mmuch to look at!

    Let me see, I have a facebook account, use it maybe 3 times a year (No idea of the user/password) it is just on my phone

    Opened a twitter account, used it once for software support about 8 years ago (no idea of user/password)

    whatsapp (no idea of user/password) on phone, use it to talk to my two lads (video) plus a couple of people a few times a year.

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