The U.S. State Department has announced that anyone requesting a visa to travel to the country must submit their social media profiles, email addresses, and telephone numbers used in the last five years.
Are you thinking about traveling to the United States at some point? Well, you better think twice when expressing yourself on the Internet, posting, sharing, or giving a “like” on social media, sending an email or a WhatsApp message.
The U.S. State Department has announced that, beginning in June, anyone requesting a visa must submit their social media profiles, their email addresses, and telephone numbers they have used in the last five years. Obviously, passwords are not requested, since the government doesn’t need them, having free, back door access to the servers of the U.S. companies involved.
So, if you’re thinking about traveling to the U.S. – wherever you live, wherever you were born, whatever you think, you are obliged to hand over the U.S. government everything you have done and said on the Internet in the last five years. Of course, this information will be processed by powerful computers with algorithms to determine not only if you are likely to throw a Molotov cocktail at the White House, but to know all about your family history, friends, and personal life.
But there’s more! What’s worse is that a good portion of the planet’s inhabitants are going to think twice about expressing themselves. At least those among the 4.4 billion who use the Internet, who are in fact those who tend to travel, vote in elections, make purchases and socialize online. Those thinking about entering U.S. territory are going to consider limiting their political expression on the Internet, and some, millions, may be tempted to forego criticism and concentrate on praise.
Political expression in general is not being limited, but rather any type that may irritate the government issuing visas; the government whose policies are in fact the most universally denounced; the government of the country which with its economic power and extraordinarily influential cultural industry attracts the most immigrants and visitors.
It is a shame that an ideal space for the exchange of knowledge, for political participation as equals, for the facilitation of economic transactions and social interaction, could become history’s most far reaching instrument of censure, given its increasing concentration in few hands. Continue reading