Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Trump Adopts Buchanan Plan to Screen Social Media of Foreign Visitors

Jun 4, 2019
Press Release
Terrorist Groups Use Digital Platforms to Communicate & Recruit. Policy Mirrors Buchanan Legislation

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today applauded the State Department’s announcement that it is now screening social media accounts and phone numbers for nearly all applicants seeking U.S. visas – a proposal Buchanan introduced in Congress more than three years ago.

“I commend the Trump Administration for taking this important step to safeguard the homeland,” Buchanan said. “We have to use every tool at our disposal to protect Americans at all levels from terrorists.”

Mirroring Buchanan’s legislation, the State Department’s new guidelines require any account names on social media platforms over the previous five years. Also required are five years of previously used phone numbers, email addresses, travel abroad and deportation status, and whether any relatives have been involved in terrorist activities.

As of last week, under the new State Department policy, nearly every visa applicant, with certain limited exceptions, will be required to submit this information as part of the new standard application process.

Buchanan first introduced the Social Media Screening For Terrorists Act in 2015, directing the executive branch to vet all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travelers and visa applicants into the country.

Buchanan renewed his call for the White House to begin immediately vetting social media after reports surfaced that the terrorists behind the San Bernardino killings had pledged support to Islamic jihad on their Facebook accounts. The White House subsequently indicated their interest in doing so.

“The war on terror is constantly evolving as radical Islamic jihadists use the Internet and social media sites to communicate, fundraise, and recruit,” Buchanan continued. “Checking social media is standard practice for thousands of employers. It’s past time we update our tactics to the 21st century and combat terrorists on digital media platforms.”

Under the previous visa application screening process, only those chosen for extra scrutiny, such as those who had traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations, were required to submit information regarding their social media accounts. According to the Associated Press, only 65,000 people (less than half a percent of all visa applicants), had fallen into that category per year.

Press reports have stated that Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was convicted of multiple bombings in New York and New Jersey, had “multiple links to radical jihadi videos” that were not investigated during his visa application. His accounts would have been required to be disclosed under Buchanan’s legislation.