Muslim Advocates Challenges Social Media Visa Screening Rule

WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, Muslim Advocates filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of itself, the American Friends Service Committee, T’ruah and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, that supports a lawsuit challenging a new Trump administration rule requiring most visa applicants to disclose personal social media information. The lawsuit, Doc Society v. Pompeo, was brought by two organizations that produce documentaries. The plaintiffs—who are represented by the Brennan Center, the Knight First Amendment Foundation at Columbia University and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP—claim the rule violates their First Amendment right to speak to and receive information from visa applicants without being chilled by government surveillance. The government has moved to dismiss the case.

Muslim Advocates’ amicus curiae brief highlights for the court the harms that this new rule will have for religious minorities in the U.S. and abroad, who have special reasons to fear that their information will be used against them by the U.S. government, leaked to hostile foreign governments, or both.

“The collection of social media information from visa applicants is only the latest attempt by the Trump administration to use government power to intimidate and discriminate against foreign nationals,” said Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Matthew Callahan.By threatening to surveil those who wish to come to the U.S., the Trump administration is harming vulnerable religious minorities who must now either self-censor their online behavior or risk government retaliation for anything that has ever been tied to their social media accounts. By calling attention to these harms, we hope our brief will persuade the court to put a stop to this destructive and unnecessary rule.”

Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.