The Trump administration is proposing a new measure that would ask (but not require) Chinese visa holders to submit their social media profiles for review by customs officials when they visit the United States, according to a new proposed rule revision published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
The new rule, which would apply to both tourists and business travelers, would invite Chinese visa holders to provide the information when filling out an online questionnaire on the U.S. Electronic Visa Update System.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, travelers who decline to provide social media accounts would not lower their chances for gaining entry to the country.
Since Facebook, Twitter and other big social media platforms are banned in China, most screening would take place on the main Chinese-language sites and messaging services dominant in the mainland, including Weibo, Tencent, and Wechat.
As most content on these sites appears in Mandarin-simplified Chinese characters, the CBP would presumably need to hire large numbers of fluent, literate Chinese speakers to help screen profiles, although automated screening would also help lessen the burden somewhat.
CBP officials did not disclose what kind of content or characteristics revealed in social media profiles would be flagged for closer scrutiny.
The U.S. government has previously expressed concern about Chinese espionage targeting American commercial and military technology, and some Chinese organized crime groups are known to be operating in the U.S., but individuals working in either capacity are unlikely to leave clues to that effect on their social media profiles.Separately, the Department of Homeland Security is considering a new rule that would require individuals from the seven countries affected by the administration’s recent travel moratorium to hand over their social-media passwords in order to gain entry to the United States.
The rule would affect travelers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. The travel ban has been temporarily suspended as legal challenges occupy the courts.