The US Border Control Want to Check Chinese Visitors' Social Media Accounts

In a move that shouldn't really come as too much of a surprise, under the current administration, US Customs and Border Protection are planning to put out a proposal which will allow them to request social media information from Chinese visitors. If it goes through, they will be asked to state which platforms there are on, and provide the relevant usernames/handles.

According to reports, this won't be a mandatory clause, and there won't be any negative ramifications if people decide to opt out, but it still raises some rather unsettling implications. Border control tightening has been a major factor in US politics since Trump took office, and his stance on the Chinese is no secret - he is most certainly not a fan. Shortly after being sworn in, Trump engaged in a phone call with Tsai Ing-Wen, the Taiwanese president. No president has done this in almost 40 years, for fear of damaging the nation's relationship with China.

Under the Obama administration, there was a 'Visa Waiver' program which included the option to disclose social media information in a similar way, but that mostly applied to Europeans, and certainly didn't pin any particular nation down in the way that this does. It was more designed to test the capabilities of social media screening.

The interesting thing about targeting the Chinese for social media information is that a vast majority of them use entirely Chinese networks like Weibo, which are far harder to mine for information than Facebook or Twitter. And that's if the policy even goes through, the public have 60 days to comment on it before it goes forward, and a representative from the Centre for Democracy and Technology has already stated that they intend to object.

This proposal is nothing compared to some of the other policies which have been discussed, though. A few weeks ago, Homeland Security head honcho John Kelly said that they were considering forcing some visitors to actually hand over social media passwords before entering the country.

Even if policies as intrusive as that don't get through, they set a precedent. As Trump's attempt at a Muslim travel ban proves, his jurisdiction only gets him so far, but other nations might see that as America leading by example, nations where governmental control is a good deal firmer. Social media information has nothing to do with a person's right to travel, that should be taken as a given.

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