DHS Sued Over First Amendment-Trampling Social Media Vetting Program

from the chilling-effect-IS-the-point dept

The DHS continues with its social media vetting program targeting foreign visitors despite questions about its Constitutionality and its effectiveness. Once a government agency decides to do something, it’s difficult to talk it out of it, even if it appears to be throwing money down an unconstitutional hole.

That’s not to say a government agency can’t be deterred from doing something awful. It’s just that deterrence seems to be more effective prior to deployment than after a program is already in place.

Speaking out against social media vetting hasn’t really gotten us anywhere, so it’s time to start suing. The Knight First Amendment Institute and the Brennan Center for Justice are suing the DHS on behalf of two US-based documentary film organizations, the International Documentary Association and the Doc Society. (via Just Security)

It’s not just the privacy side of the Fourth Amendment that’s affected by the DHS’s social media deep dives and demands for account passwords. It’s also the First Amendment. There’s a definite chilling effect being felt now that the DHS can demand access to accounts during the visa application process or at the border when incoming foreign visitors arrive. From the lawsuit [PDF]:

Plaintiffs Doc Society and the International Documentary Association (“IDA”) bring this challenge because the Registration Requirement and related retention and dissemination policies violate their rights as well as the rights of their members and partners inside and outside the United States. Doc Society and IDA are U.S.-based documentary film organizations that regularly collaborate with non-U.S. filmmakers and other partners, including by inviting them to screen and discuss their work in the United States. For example, Doc Society hosts “Good Pitch” events throughout the year to facilitate filmmaking partnerships and launch social justice impact campaigns while raising funds to support these efforts. Similarly, IDA’s “Getting Real” conference brings hundreds of filmmakers from around the world together in Los Angeles to share their skills and their stories with each other.

The sort of things documentary filmmakers explore are the sorts of things US government agents might decide are “suspicious” when vetting social media accounts. On top of being mistaken for criminals or terrorists because they document criminal and terrorist activity, these organizations risk exposing confidential sources. And those confidential sources may risk blowing their own cover by acquiescing to demands for account info and passwords.

Many of Plaintiffs’ members and partners use social media to show their work; draw attention to human rights abuses; connect with other filmmakers, artists, and advocates; and engage with the same social and political issues that they address in their films. The Registration Requirement has a significant chilling effect on their use of social media, especially for political speech. Plaintiffs’ members and partners who anticipate applying for U.S. visas must consider the risk that a U.S. official will misinterpret their speech on social media, impute others’ speech to them, or subject them to additional scrutiny or delayed processing because of the views they or their contacts have expressed. Those who use pseudonymous identifiers must take into account that they will have to relinquish their online anonymity to U.S. officials when they submit their visa applications, and they must also consider the risk that U.S. officials will disclose their social media identifiers to foreign governments, reveal the identifiers inadvertently, or fail to protect the identifiers from third parties who might access them unlawfully. In recent months, authoritarian and other rights-abusing regimes, including some U.S. allies, have used information gleaned from social media to identify, locate, and detain human rights advocates, journalists, and political dissidents—and even, in some instances, to have them killed.

The chilling effect isn’t theoretical. The lawsuit provides several examples of IDA or Doc Society members who have drastically altered their online activities in response to the DHS’s social media vetting policy.

[O]ne IDA member currently residing in the U.S. Midwest reviewed three years of social media activity and deleted posts criticizing the current U.S. administration in order to avoid any delays on future visa applications.

[…]

A Doc Society partner who has shot two films and attended multiple film festivals in the United States applied for an I visa one week after the Registration Requirement took effect in the hope of continuing his work in the United States. Because of the Registration Requirement, he has all but stopped expressing his views and interacting with others on social media, though he previously used social media to promote his projects and to share his political views.

[…]

Because of the Registration Requirement, one IDA member has decided not to accept future work in the United States despite significant past work experience as a journalist here.

The lawsuit also points out the DHS’s attempt to moderate immigration via social media vetting is bound to generate false positives and overlook genuine dangers. Vetting software strips posts of context and nuance. Translation software introduces errors. What’s harmless in context may look harmful to the person vetting social media posts, due to language or cultural barriers. Emojis and other non-verbal cues may be misinterpreted. Content the government doesn’t like might be shared, not because the person approves of what’s happening, but because the person wants to inform others about criminal/terrorist activities. Combining automated processes with a non-adversarial process is the worst possible solution, but it’s the one we’re stuck with thanks to the endless ratcheting up of security efforts and the lack of manpower and/or interest to do the job properly.

The lawsuit asks for the court to find the vetting process unconstitutional and to block the DHS from enforcing it. It’s a long shot but you can’t get anything if you don’t ask. If anything, it will hopefully result in some modifications of the program — ones that allow those affected to challenge determinations made the DHS and that limit (or forbid) the sharing of information held by the DHS (for up to 100 years!) with other agencies. Just about anything would be an improvement over the program currently in place, which infringes on rights while not really doing much to make the nation more secure.

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Companies: doc society, international documentary association

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Comments on “DHS Sued Over First Amendment-Trampling Social Media Vetting Program”

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52 Comments
Norahc (profile) says:

Uninstall the apps when you travel, reinstall them when you leave the airport.

Or… just don’t use social media.

1) How many of those apps are preinstalled in your phone and can’t be removed without rooting/jaulbreaking it?

2) Do you really think a customs official is going to believe you have zero social media accounts, especially if you’re not parr of the boomer generation? Telling them that is likely ro draw even moree scrutiny if you and your devices.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re:

I’m registered on a couple forums related to retro games and such, but other than that, I have no social media accounts. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

I did have a fake Facebook account, but all I ever used it for was logging in to post comments on various news sites, there was no actual content on it. And now I’ve lost access to it because Facebook suddenly complained that there was a problem with my password and wanted to text me a code to re-enable access. I don’t have a cell phone, so no text for me, and there was no alternate option.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have the inverse problem: no Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/… either, buuuut I am an active Stackizen, active enough to have significant privileges, and that’s an over my dead body WRT giving up the password to that account, because of those privileges: giving DHS the ability to run around editing other people’s posts while attaching my name to the edits is not something I am interested in doing, ever.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

tomaTOE/toMAto

I had to dig to find Techdirts stance on it, but it appears that its OK to target SOME peoples communications, but not others-that some say "tomato” and its good natured, brilliant satire, but when OTHERS say "tomato” it is HATE!® and “turrerisms!”

….where is that….oh, yeah, the Tanya Cohen Satire Principle: its only bad when THEY say it.

Since 2015, every argument Joshua Ryne Goldberg made online as Tanya is nearly boilerplate ADL and in this case too; and the social media surveillance scandals since then reveal that what Goldberg~cum Cohen called for has more or less come true

This new human rights law will set up state surveillance of intolerant citizens, including those who voice anti-feminist views

And, he was convicted of actual terrorism to boot.

Gotta stop those speech terroris’ at the border and educate them about freedom and democracy!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Ryne_Goldberg

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pensacola

They’re beating the same drum now about the Pensacola Navy shooting, and saying that Alshamranis Socmed should have been pre-vetted, despite clear evidence he was being cyberstalked.

The only problem is, those who are vetting media are also frequently rabid militants themselves, and frequently allied with western extremist religions zionist/dominionists, and heavilly involved in harassing people like him online.

Infact, none other than Muslim-hating Rita Katz, a notorious race-baiter and provocatuer, and many news,artucles show that she/her firm was implicated as tracking that guy online.

She is a true “deep state” player, having worked as both FBI and the Mossad for many years. She was cyberstalking the guy while hiding behind SITE intelligence.

This pattern repeats itself in most mass shooting cases. It is these people who cyberstalk, hack and harass and radicalize these guys, even hacking them repeatedly, planting stuff in their Twitter feeds, and worse.

In fact, the Pensacola shooter was actually sexually harrassed at that base by an instructor there, and filed a complaint:

https://m.newser.com/story/284096/report-base-shooter-filed-complaint-about-instructor.htmlsocmed should have been pre-vetted.

Then, post-event, the Socmed gets webscrubbed so that journalists and the public cannot trace the webs of relations in the guys Twitter feed, because most of those people will be shown to be working with police and military, and private contractor psyops, just as we see here.

These intel agency criminals are acting with total deniability, and should be sued into hell by the survivors of the dead.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pensacola

And you need to take a bullet in the face, hopefully from your own weapon, hero.

Go ahead-I know you think about it sometimes, hero. You can do it,hero. Go on. I urge you. Dont worry-you have angels flying above you who will catch the skull fragments.

But reputable major media has reported the facts that I state above.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:4 re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pensacola

Does your mom know that it is you who steals her crack?

I suggested some anonymous military/police/zionazi troll cum internet provocateur do the world a favor, and off themselves.

Protected speech, you Sissy pug fucking provocateur.

This is EXACTLY how you people harass others online, but I aint no teenager, you piece of sheit. Now go do it already, and stop cyberstalking me.

But thanks for playing!

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:6 re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pensacol

I forgot to compliment you on your pure teenage genius here, when you said this brilliant insult

“Sounds like you’re jealous he has a bigger "gun" than you.”

….And the crowd cheers the brilliant AC cowards brilliant rhetorical BRILLIANCE.

….grow a penis, you schmuck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pens

….grow a penis, you schmuck.

Oh heavens to betsy, R/O/G/S knows my dirty little secret and has retorted with such a masterpiece of written retort I don’t know if I can deal with it.

We should all bow before his brilliance, since he has decreed me to be a racist incel nutjob. Since he said it it must be true, because he’s the one deciding who need to be shot in the face for disagreeing with him.

What does R/O/G/S stand for anyway? Racist/Ogre/Gobbling/Sperm?

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:10 re: Mohammed Als

You havent adressed, refuted, or otherwise engaged with a single point I made anywhere, in true hasbara/trollfarm/military psyops/obsessive queer kid fashion.

Your just another derailer.

Just do it, ok?

Your mom and dad can sue me later for encouraging you to kill yourself, but for now, just do it.

I will point them to this exact forum, so they can see you spinning out, and I will then admit I used sooper seekrit mind control operations on you to provokeyou to just DO IT.

JUST DO IT

Hopefully your parents are less stupid than you (I am questioning this supposition even as I write it), and they will see how obsessively you flagged my posts, and posthumously get you the help you needed.

Maybe if you just do it soon enough, we can work together to put your skull fragments back together to slightly resemble the original vessel that once contained your shit for brains.

But the prognosis is not good, I azure you.

DO IT NOW

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 re: Mohammed

No need to refute any point you made. Uou stopped being worth that effort when you resorted to telling people to shoot themselves in the face because they disagreed with you.

No one with a single working brain cell believes that is an appropriate way to have a discussion, and since you’ve demonstrated that you lack even that basic requirement it’s a futile effort to even try and engage in any intelligent conversation with you.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:12 easy on the Henry Makow

Um, yeah, thanks for the acknowledgement that I was once,“worth effort,” to you, who has not even ONCE been similarly situated in my mind.

That means so much to me, wow, Im tearing up….some anonymous AC douchebag online once thought I was proximately situated to gain their most minimal “effort.” So valuable!

And this: No one with a single working brain cell believes that is an appropriate way to have a discussion

Thats you, right? You find me innapropriate, right…lets follow the (single) clue:

Thanks for telling the ENTIRE WORLD about the fact that you not only have exactly one brain cell, but that you actually counted that single cell yourself.

Pure one celled genius (incelled genius?)

In fact, at many points over several threads, I asked why you cyberstalk my posts, flagging and harassing, yet never provide ANY even remotely substantive commentary.

But I do appreciate you outing yourself as a purported insider here, who leads the purported “community standards” flag brigade, because my demonstrative speech is designed to do JUST THAT-bring the single cell community together.

The public needs to know the level of pure juvenile bullshit that the online #sensitives are up to, creating a false sense of open discourse, while secretly flagging it out of existence.

I hope you catch a flaming hot ghost pepper burrito up your ass, pitched like a Nolan Ryan strikeout, but with more chew spittle oozing off it to inflame the obvious and total hemorhoid that you are.

Go ahead, pitch it yourself hero. Use your one ball (cell?unicell?…INCEL!)

Then, just kill yourself. I dont care what method you choose. But, please,Do it NOW.

DO IT NOW

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Moms basement Keyboard Kowboy Korps

Well, know what script you are following.

So I will say it again:

They’re beating the same drum now about the Pensacola Navy shooting, and saying that Alshamranis Socmed should have been pre-vetted, despite clear evidence he was being cyberstalked.

The only problem is, those who are vetting media are also frequently rabid militants themselves, and frequently allied with western extremist religions zionist/dominionists, and heavilly involved in harassing people like him online.

Infact, none other than Muslim-hating Rita Katz, a notorious race-baiter and provocatuer, and many news,artucles show that she/her firm was implicated as tracking that guy online.

She is a true “deep state” player, having worked as both FBI and the Mossad for many years. She was cyberstalking the guy while hiding behind SITE intelligence.

This pattern repeats itself in most mass shooting cases. It is these people who cyberstalk, hack and harass and radicalize these guys, even hacking them repeatedly, planting stuff in their Twitter feeds, and worse.

In fact, the Pensacola shooter was actually sexually harrassed at that base by an instructor there, and filed a complaint:

https://m.newser.com/story/284096/report-base-shooter-filed-complaint-about-instructor.ht mlsocmed should have been pre-vetted.

Then, post-event, the Socmed gets webscrubbed so that journalists and the public cannot trace the webs of relations in the guys Twitter feed, because most of those people will be shown to be working with police and military, and private contractor psyops, just as we see here.

These intel agency criminals are acting with total deniability, and should be sued into hell by the survivors of the dead.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:2 re: Mohammed Alshamrani/Pensacola

You should study the law.

Nothing in what I wrote constitutes a threat under US law, except to some loon like you and yours who are making lists.

And, look at all my posts in these latest threads, you will note that my demonstrative speech is designed to draw cockroaches like you into the light-and voila, there #you are.

Put that real threat next to my name on your list.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

How is what you just said even slightly related to my post?

I am for the full investigation and prosecution of the intel agents that radicalize these guys; in lieu of that, raising awareness that they are as culpable as the shooters.

I am for raising awareness, and for a new Church Committee type of congressional investigation of COINTELPRO2.0

I am for an honest bi-partisan, multi-ethnic discussion about these bad, hidden practices of CVE profiteers, and maybe building a coalition to address these issues.

Does that also bother you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The CVE profiteers are often, but not always, fine with me. Everything running on your computer can be reduced to a number or equation run in binary.

It should be possible to make a perfectly secure device once we get the number or equation right. Finding that process will also tell us a lot about science so there should be many benefits even though it is going to be a long term project.

The security researchers are doing the work for us.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re: Re:

Um, ok.

Glad to know that you are ok with the unethical, often illegal tactics of CVE provocateurs. Which is why you post as an AC.

But this: “Finding that process will also tell us a lot about science.”

Really? WHICH science? Did your programmer plug that data into your program or give you a promot in your software to answer that?

Slartibartfast says:

Re: Re:

"Everything running on your computer can be reduced to a number or equation run in binary."
Everything running on your computer is binary.
Binary is the reduction.
Is that number 42?

"It should be possible to make a perfectly secure device"
Best laid plans of mice.

"Finding that process will also tell us a lot about science so there should be many benefits even though it is going to be a long term project."
Yes! It would be the answer to the ultimate question of life,the universe, and everything – but it will take ten million years.

R/O/G/S says:

Re: Re:

Only a seriously sick person would flag that comment.

Thanks for playing!

How is what you just said even slightly related to my post?

I am for the full investigation and prosecution of the intel agents that radicalize these guys; in lieu of that, raising awareness that they are as culpable as the shooters.

I am for raising awareness, and for a new Church Committee type of congressional investigation of COINTELPRO2.0

I am for an honest bi-partisan, multi-ethnic discussion about these bad, hidden practices of CVE profiteers, and maybe building a coalition to address these issues.

Does that also bother you?

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

This is a perfect excuse to keep out 'those' people

Refusing to reveal your passwords is an excuse to ban you from entering the country. On the other hand, sharing passwords is also a criminal offense, and as such is grounds for being denied entry to the country.
So when that nice customs agent sees someone he doesn’t like,all he has to do is ask for the passwords. No matter how you answer, you get denied entry.

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