The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has denied a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request to expand its collection of social media account information from people entering the country, saying that the DHS hadn’t proved the information collection was practically useful. The DHS was mandated by former President Donald Trump to collect and surveil visa applicants’ social media accounts, but President Biden rescinded the executive order requiring it, a fact that was cited in the rejection.
According to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the DHS’s proposal would have required 30 million applicants to include their social media accounts on immigration or foreign travel forms, expanding the measures that were already in place. The concern with the DHS requiring applicants to show their social media accounts is that it could have a chilling effect on speech — people may censor themselves out of fear that saying the wrong thing would cut off their access to travel or immigrate to the US.
It’s important to keep in mind that the denial doesn’t get rid of the existing measures that have been in place since 2019. However, the administration is currently taking a look at those as part of a review that’s set to finish on May 20th. Today’s news could be an additional sign that the new administration is interested in rolling back the current social media requirements.