Tuesday November 12, 2019
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U.S. Now Seeking Social Media Details from Most Visa Applicants

The department has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms

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U.S., Social Media, Visa, Applicants
A man has his fingerprints electronically taken while taking part in a visa application demonstration. VOA

The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

Extra scrutiny expanded

Social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who’d traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.

U.S., Social Media, Visa, Applicants

The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames. Pixabay

The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants “will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”

The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When it filed its initial notice to make the change, the department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education.

Platforms listed

The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

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Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements. (VOA)

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Twitter Shares Child Abuse Content On Social Media: IWF

IWF report says that Twitter leads to child abuse content

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child abuse
IWF report revealed that most of the child abuse content on social media is shared by Twitter. Pixabay

The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has revealed that nearly half of the child abuse content in the social media space is being shared openly on micro-blogging platform Twitter.

According to a report in The Telegraph that accessed the IWF data, 49 per cent of the images, videos and url links it found on social media, search engines and cloud services in the last three years were on Twitter – “making up 1,396 of the total 2,835 incidents”.

This is a scary incident as the child abuse images and videos slipped through Twitter’s filters and were available for anyone to see.

According to the IWF, it helps minimise the availability of online sexual abuse content, specifically child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world. The majority of its work focuses on the removal of child sexual abuse images and videos.

“We search for child sexual abuse images and videos and offer a place for the public to report them anonymously. We then have them removed,” it said on its website.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine was second in the IWF report, with 604 incidents recorded between 2016 and 2018, followed by Amazon with 375 and Google with 348.

“The IWF found 72 incidents of abuse being openly hosted on Facebook, 18 on its sister site Instagram and 22 on YouTube,” said the report.

child abuse
Earlier reports claimed that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is still serving child porn. Pixabay

A Twitter spokesperson replied to the IWF report: “We have serious concerns about the accuracy of these figures and the metrics used to produce them. We will continue to work with the IWF to address their concerns and improve the accuracy of their data”.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, CEO of the IWF said that “our data is accurate and recorded fairly and consistently regardless of where we find child sexual abuse material”.

Microsoft also questioned the IWF data.

Earlier reports claimed that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is still serving child porn, and certain search terms on the platform brought up child porn images and related keywords.

“Microsoft’s Bing search engine reportedly still served up child porn, nearly a year after the tech giant said it was addressing the issue.

“The news comes as part of a report in The New York Times that looks at what the newspaper says is a failure by tech companies to adequately address child pornography on their platforms,” reports CNET.

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The tech giant has long been at the forefront of combating abuse imagery, even creating a detection tool called “PhotoDNA” almost a decade ago. But many criminals have turned to its search engine Bing as a reliable tool.

“Part of the issue is privacy, some companies say,” said the report. (IANS)