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US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory (theverge.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
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US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory

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  • by amxcoder ( 1466081 ) on Thursday March 23, 2017 @10:42PM (#54100379)
    What if I don't have any social media accounts. And what constitutes a "Social Media Account"? Is this just the big ones like Facebook and Twitter? Or does it include all of the off-shoots that tweens are into these days like Instagram, SnapChat, etc.? How about defunct Social Media Accounts like MySpace?

    Does it include ANY website that you communicate, like our very own Slashdot, and any random forum you belong too for hobbies, and GitHub and other sites that facilitate communicating with others over certain topics?

    The reason for this is to find "terrorists", but how many terrorists are dumb enough to give over their accounts that they use to actively proclaim jihad on the world with? I understand you have to vet people for certain things, but I'm not sure how this will really help, being that it sounds like it's on the "honor" system that you are being truthful and turning all of your accounts over. It also has the flaw in that it assumes that you have Social Media accounts to begin with which many people do not.
    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Thursday March 23, 2017 @11:00PM (#54100461)

      The reason for this is to find "terrorists", but how many terrorists are dumb enough to give over their accounts that they use to actively proclaim jihad on the world with?

              A lot of them, actually. ISIS is very active about it, in fact. I think both the French and Monaco truck-ramming idiots had posts on some social media about jihad. Same with the idiots who shot up the theater.

              These guys are not criminal masterminds, nor are they particularly crafty or intelligent. Something this simple wouldn't stop all of them, but it would at least flag some of them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So your assumption is that Facebook et al demand birth certificates, picture id, fingerprints and DNA prior to opening an account in any particular name. There is real insanity in using something like social media at borders where the validity of any social media account ie what is you name, John Smith, provide social media account details and passwords, I have none, liar John Smith is all over the place, prepare to be strip searched and anal probed and be held in custody until you provide details for all s

        • So your assumption is that Facebook et al demand birth certificates, picture id, fingerprints and DNA prior to opening an account in any particular name. There is real insanity in using something like social media at borders where the validity of any social media account ie what is you name, John Smith, provide social media account details and passwords, I have none, liar John Smith is all over the place, prepare to be strip searched and anal probed and be held in custody until you provide details for all social media accounts tied to John Smith or variants of John Smith. So basically guilty for the entirety of social media until you can prove which accounts are not your account.

          Well they could look at all the pictures of John Smith and see if any are obviously you, or if any of them posted about just visiting the country you're coming from. Of course this assumes you're dumb enough to have privacy settings that allow unknowns to peruse your profile.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday March 24, 2017 @12:30AM (#54100675)

        but it would at least flag some of them.

        I doubt it. This is just another example of "something must be done" - spinning wheels to show that there is action but not actually going anywhere.
        It's just going to piss off a lot of people and make Bin Laden's ghost laugh at how even the people who like the USA enough to actually want to visit are being encouraged to hate it by little Hitlers on border duty.

        • ...although it arguably puts up the "cost of doing business" for ISIS. That is, they now (may) have to make up fake social media accounts over a period of many months/years to make one their dodgy people look 'clean'.

          I'd imagine though, if you want to get anyone 'dodgy' into the US, a fake passport is probably a lot easier than fake social media accounts.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Most of these terrorists are natives anyway. Like the guy who just tried it in London - born as Adrian Russell in Dartford before he changed his name, UK citizen from birth.

        The terrorists are actually one step ahead here. They know it is dumb to try to sneak jihadists over borders, at least via legitimate means that pass through border security. Instead they prefer to radicalize vulnerable people already in the target countries, via social media.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Like other nations do, a person gets asked for an email account to track the application.
      Bank account shows buying any network product over the years?
      So that email account might be asked for.
      Re 'give over their accounts that they use to actively proclaim .."
      The question is like the old political party question on entry to the USA. All the USA has to find any trace of a lie and access to the USA is revoked.
      The more questions asked, the more people might try to hide from the USA.
      Its very hard to hide f
    • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
      What if I don't have any social media accounts.

      Then you're either very suspicious or lying, and both warrant extra special treatment. Step over here for a minute ...

      And what constitutes a "Social Media Account"?

      If your definition is narrower than the authorities' definition, you're potentially in trouble. So: No, yes and yes.

      Does it include ANY website that you communicate, like our very own Slashdot, and any random forum you belong too for hobbies, and GitHub and other sites that facilitate com

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      There is a list.

      If you apply for a visa waiver, you will be asked for your social media accounts right now but it is listed as OPTIONAL. There is a list on the visa waiver sites they want you to give details on accounts on, the list has about 30 sites on it as well as an "Other" where you can disclose information about anything else.

      It is currently optional, but the question is already there even for visa-waiver countries.

    • The same type of terrorists who are dumb enough to think that Allah will reward them with 72 virgins for wearing an explosive vest.

    • What if I don't have any social media accounts.

      "Just don't lie. It's 10 years in Gitmo if you lie. Remember Martha Stewart. She went to prison because she lied to Federal agents. You're not a Martha Stewart? Are you?"

      "Is that your iPhone? Please unlock it for us. Yes, my colleague will return your iPhone shortly to you. It just takes a few minutes."

      "Has anyone else used that iPhone other than yourself? Please write down their names, contact info, dates, and circumstances in which they did."

      "What's your email address? [haveibeenpwned.com]"

      "Any other email address? Keep in mi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some checking on people who have been in war zones with our stated enemies. Seems specific enough in target and restrained enough in scope.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But ISIS countries are MUSLIM! Which means this is a MUSLIM BAN! Trump is a BIGOT, a FASCIST, and LITERALLY HITLER!

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        They should only be allowed a visa to visit Hawaii, since Hawaii likes terrorists so much.

  • Uh.... what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdFORTRANflat.com minus language> on Thursday March 23, 2017 @11:03PM (#54100473) Journal

    ...required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past

    *ever*???

    Personally, I know I wouldn't even be able to begin to comply with this kind of demand. I don't remember all of the old phone numbers I've had. All social media accounts? Does that include aliases on bulletin board systems from the 1980's? Again, I couldn't comply because I don't remember them all. I probably have about a half dozen expired email accounts at old internet service providers, some of which don't even exist anymore, where I can maybe remember half of them.

    • Re:Uh.... what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by chipschap ( 1444407 ) on Thursday March 23, 2017 @11:07PM (#54100495)

      I was once asked to list every address I had ever lived at. That's just about impossible unless you stayed in the house into which you were born for your whole life.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I was once asked to list every address I had ever lived at. That's just about impossible unless you stayed in the house into which you were born for your whole life.

        That's highly individual but I think a lot of people can do that. I tried to do a count for myself and arrived at eleven, I can name all the cities and most the roads, but if I dug through all my papers I could probably find all the addresses. I don't think I know any that's literally lived all their lives at the same address, but I know one that's only had two. Now this might be statistically biased since the only people I can follow through most their lives are the people who stayed in my home town, but I

        • 2. Collective or other shared accommodation, often combined with studies.

          It's pretty common to move accommodation for each year of a degree, so this can easily be 3-4, more if you do a PhD or similar (though people often find a place for the whole of their PhD). I can remember the second and third places I lived as a student (I stayed in the same place for two years of undergrad and then for the whole of my PhD), but the first was university-owned accommodation and I don't recall the exact address - I certainly don't remember post codes for all of them.

      • I was once asked to list every address I had ever lived at. That's just about impossible unless you stayed in the house into which you were born for your whole life.

        Um, no. I've lived at 11 addresses and I can recall all except two that were temporary relocations (and I can partially recall them). Granted, it is a ridiculous request. Perhaps all the addresses you've lived at for the last seven years?

      • I've had 3 but I would need to use the Google Maps trick for one of them.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        I was once asked to list every address I had ever lived at. That's just about impossible unless you stayed in the house into which you were born for your whole life.

        I can list every single one of my permanent residences. I've had 12 thus far in my life.

        However the only time I've been asked to list all of them was to attain Top Secret clearance whilst working at the Australian Tax Office (and that was a requirement because I might accidentally see something classified Top Secret, not that I handled classified info.. the joys of tech support).

    • No kidding. Hell, my browser has 6 different Slashdot logins stored *right now*, not counting all the other ones I've used going back 15 years. Email addresses would be practically impossible, even going on a "best effort" basis. I give out a new email address every time I sign up for a different website or get tied into some store's rewards program.

      Phone numbers are likely to provide some real intel, but the whole idea of collecting social media accounts is laughable on its face. It's preposterous to think

    • Reminds me of healthcare demands for past surgery/hospitalization/diagnoses. WTF who can remember.
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Oh you can't comply? Well sorry, visa denied. It's a practically impossible task, especially if you go back to the 80s for those BBS accounts, even earlier for phone numbers, or include one-time/throwaway accounts we've all created.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Yeah.... and what about places that you lived where you were too young to remember? I know for a fact that my parents moved at least twice before I was 3, but I would never be able to tell you the addresses, all I know are the city/town names.
    • *ever*???

      Yes, of course. The point of these questions is not just to acquire information, it's also to get you to provide false information, i.e. lie. Then you can be easily charged with lying to immigration authorities.

      Personally, I know I wouldn't even be able to begin to comply with this kind of demand.

      Well that's too bad.

      Does that include aliases on bulletin board systems from the 1980's?

      If someone else can still prove that you had this account, yes.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      I use my landline only for ADSL. I have had it for 10 years or so. I have NO idea what that number is. And that is a current number that is in use.
      And at one point I tried out dozens of free email account services. Pretty sure some of these exist, but I have no idea if they do or not.
      And I do not even know if I have an email account with my provider. Probably is in the package, but no idea what the adress would be.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think I'm just going create a bunch of porn profiles with just dick pics to hand over and see what their biometrics think of that. Just being a Good Samaritan. Have a few with cartoony smiley faces and AK-47s. If they turn it down, it's not my problem. It tried. If everyone did that, they'd stop just like they did when people pulled their pants down at airports a decade ago. You'd hope anyway. One of the male agents just smiles at you. Cavity search. :( Says he needs more "biometric data."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any information you hand over is you consenting to a search. They will make feel like you can't get into the country without a social media account. That's not true. It's just a scare tactic. Worst case, by a shitty $40 Android, get a Twitter account, then throw the fucking thing away. Any one asks, you lost it and forgot the password. If you gotta do it again, who cares. You already spent hundreds of dollars flying. I wanna know where are all the NAACP related groups and protestors on this? Anyone noticed

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Thursday March 23, 2017 @11:35PM (#54100565)

      Hint: this is for Visa applications. That is, for foreigners who aren't allowed to visit America without one, and are supplying this information in their own country.

      And it's for Visa applications from people who like to hang out with ISIS, which should be an automatic denial in any sane world.

      • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Thursday March 23, 2017 @11:51PM (#54100603) Homepage

        Reuters version -- "applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State" * (link [reuters.com])
        Verge version -- "applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory" (link [theverge.com])
        Parent version -- "applications from people who like to hang out with ISIS" (above)

        * Comprised in the majority of citizens who were victims, prisoners, kidnapped, abused, forced slaves and wives, i.e., any brown-skinned refugees.

      • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Friday March 24, 2017 @12:11AM (#54100641)

        And it's for Visa applications from people who like to hang out with ISIS, which should be an automatic denial in any sane world.

        Or all the folks who worked as contractors supporting US efforts in the region. I'm not in a Visa country, but I've been to several areas that have been controlled by Daesh, working as a civilian contractor.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        people who like to hang out with ISIS

        ISIL/Daash may want it pretend they do but ISIL is not actually running a country. They are one of the smaller rebel groups in Syria and Iraq. Being in the same area as a thinly spread bunch of criminals does not also make you are criminal, especially if you are one of the people actively fighting these criminals, such as the Kurdish groups that we provide military aid to. Those are the sort of people who will be visiting the USA and they are the sort of people who h

    • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Friday March 24, 2017 @12:08AM (#54100633)

      Any information you hand over is you consenting to a search. They will make feel like you can't get into the country without a social media account. That's not true. It's just a scare tactic.

      Admission of non-citizens into the US is not a right and is not subject to due process. Non-citizens can be denied entry for arbitrary reasons, not just in the US but also in all other countries on the planet. How do I know? I have lived in half a dozen countries and immigrated to the US.

      Even as a citizen, you can be searched at the border.

      It's just 9/11 united in hatred and ignorance bullshit group think all over again.

      The "ignorance and group think" is people like you who confuse legal protections of citizens with immigration procedures.

      I wanna know where are all the NAACP related groups and protestors on this?

      Quite apart from the legal issues, the NAACP stands up for the rights and advancement of a population that suffers from, on average, lower education, lower skills, and lower incomes. What possible reason would the NAACP have to advocate the admission into the US of even more people who compete for already scarce low skill jobs?

      • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Friday March 24, 2017 @01:13AM (#54100735)

        Admission of non-citizens into the US is not a right and is not subject to due process. Non-citizens can be denied entry for arbitrary reasons, not just in the US but also in all other countries on the planet.

        On the other hand, the US signed a treaty (actually a couple) that says my wife and son, both not citizens of the USA, can wander into the USA any time they want. According to the American Constitution, treaties are the second highest law of the land, just below the Constitution. Of course America being America, all it takes is a Supreme Court Justice to say, "no, the Constitution actually means something else" and America has a long history of breaking their own laws and especially treaties. Probably the reason they dropped the u out of honour.
        Through other treaties and such, my son also has the right to go to a few other countries as well.

        • Admission of non-citizens into the US is not a right and is not subject to due process. Non-citizens can be denied entry for arbitrary reasons, not just in the US but also in all other countries on the planet.

          On the other hand, the US signed a treaty (actually a couple) that says my wife and son, both not citizens of the USA, can wander into the USA any time they want. According to the American Constitution, treaties are the second highest law of the land, just below the Constitution. Of course America being America, all it takes is a Supreme Court Justice to say, "no, the Constitution actually means something else" and America has a long history of breaking their own laws and especially treaties. Probably the reason they dropped the u out of honour. Through other treaties and such, my son also has the right to go to a few other countries as well.

          As someone (also) married to a foreign national, what he said.

          The OP's arbitrary posture on non-nationals is in the same category as people demanding immigration vetting of Puerto Rican and people from Guam and American Samoa (who are US citizens) moving to the mainland (yes, I've heard this, multiple times.)

          Posturing about the law, and ignorance of the law, them two make a saucy shit sandwich. Every. Time.

          • Posturing about the law, and ignorance of the law, them two make a saucy shit sandwich. Every. Time

            I've lived as an immigrant and guest worker for much of my life, and I've always understood that immigration is a privilege, that as an immigrant I do not have most of the rights of citizens, and that until I become a citizen, I can be asked to leave at any time. Even now that I am a citizen, my family abroad has no right to visit me here or live with me (although they occasionally enjoy that privilege after g

            • I've lived as an immigrant and guest worker for much of my life, and I've always understood that immigration is a privilege, that as an immigrant I do not have most of the rights of citizens, and that until I become a citizen, I can be asked to leave at any time.

              You're selling yourself short. Your rights are not defined by the government's whims. You have just as much right to be here as anyone born within the geopolitical boundaries of the United States. Anyone who tries to claim otherwise (including the U.S. government) is infringing on your natural rights as a sentient being.

              • You have just as much right to be here as anyone born within the geopolitical boundaries of the United States

                Now that I am a naturalized citizen I do. Before naturalization, I did not.

        • On the other hand, the US signed a treaty (actually a couple) that says my wife and son, both not citizens of the USA, can wander into the USA any time they want

          Really? A treaty that grants non-citizens unconditional legal rights to enter the US? Being an immigrant myself, most of whose family lives outside the US, I'd love to hear about that! Can you provide pointers?

  • The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries.

    The ban is for six predominately islamic extremist countries. Are you bigoted against Muslims or something?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 24, 2017 @01:28AM (#54100761)

      But shouldn't Saudi Arabia top that list, followed by Turkey and only then Iran and any other 'extremist' countries?

      America's bedfellows are the biggest terrorist supporters in the Middle East, bar none.

    • The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries.

      The ban is for six predominately islamic extremist countries. Are you bigoted against Muslims or something?

      WTF? The countries are not "predominantly islamic extremist." That would require more than 50% of the population to be extremists.

  • Knowing that we won't have to worry about people who say upsetting things on Twitter.

  • Just as true...

    The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly white male countries.

    FTFY

  • The US doesn't know who has visited those territories at any point in their lives. Nor does it know if these people have social media accounts or not. Nor does it know whether the accounts that it is told about are their genuine accounts or just some phony "legend" accounts that are intended to be innocuous. Providing the person doesn't walk through with their phone / laptop signed into an incriminating account its hard to see what the US can do.

    To me it doesn't seem like it serves any purpose at all exce

    • The USA does know.
      Most of those areas where ISIS rules are still part of an official country that requires a VISA to enter. Hence you have a stamp of that country in your passport and to get a VISA for the USA you have to show your passport ...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday March 24, 2017 @05:23AM (#54101213)

    Are you worried that law enforcement, border control or even the prospective in-laws could want to take a look at your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram? We have the solution for you!

    We whitewash your official social media pages, keep them updated with goodie-two-shoes stories (your choice how much saccharine is to be added) to make it look active and not a fake profile, while you open up your very own, private social media account where you can be yourself all you want. Your future mother-in-law wants to get access to your private Facebook pages, locked from public viewing? Your future employer wants to violate your privacy and demands you hand over your Facebook details? Now you can show them what they want to see. And decide what they should see.

    We can even make it appear that you're friends with key people in your business, our SEO-professionals are standing by!

    • What's that you say? You do not have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account yet? But you don't want to look like you're trying to hide something in your next job interview or your next trip abroad? No worries, we will provide you with a complete profile, either with a persona you choose or one that we create for you. Choose from a wide range of hobbies and volunteer activities that should impress any boss dishonest enough to snoop in your private area. We offer a variety of community services you can clai

  • This will absolutely work. Those idiot terrorists would never be clever enough to create fake profiles.
  • Examing the nature of searches that take place at our boarders gives a hint of the strategy the US is using to weed out terrorists. It is apparent that the US government hasn't figured out:
    1. It is possible to have multiple social media identities
    2. The entire Internet is ISIS territory
    3. Harassing people who want to enter the US is bad for business

    Given the near total spectrum surveillance that we know the US has over the Internet thanks to Snowden, I'm surprised things are so ham-fisted. There are much be

  • Seriously, if somebody has visited a place like Pakistan, Iran, OR ANY NATION NEXT TO THESE, and is not from there, it is far more likely that they are up to more than simple vacationing.
  • If DHS ever expanded this to include American citizens who travel abroad and need to re-enter the US, I'd never be able to leave the country without risking prison for omitting hundreds of email addresses and website logins from the disclosure form. Why? I've used SO MANY email addresses and website logins over the years, I couldn't accurately disclose 90% of them EVEN IF I TRIED. And frankly, it would be a cold day in hell before I ever did it voluntarily, because even IF I trusted the government to act wi

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