Doc Society v. Blinken
Nate Kitch

Doc Society v. Blinken

A lawsuit challenging the State Department’s social media registration requirement

On December 5, 2019, the Knight Institute, Brennan Center for Justice, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett filed a lawsuit challenging the State Department’s new rules requiring nearly all visa applicants to register with the government all social media handles they have used in the preceding five years. The lawsuit also challenges the State Department’s and the Department of Homeland Security’s indefinite retention and broad dissemination of that information to federal, state, and local agencies and, in certain circumstances, to foreign governments.

The plaintiffs—Doc Society and the International Documentary Association—are two U.S.-based documentary film organizations whose missions are to foster creative collaboration across borders. The social media registration requirement impedes this collaboration by deterring the plaintiffs’ members and partners from speaking freely online and by discouraging filmmakers who would otherwise visit the United States from applying for visas to do so. As a result, the requirement deprives the plaintiffs and their U.S. members and audiences of opportunities to engage with filmmakers from around the world.

The lawsuit contends that the registration requirement violates the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs and their members and partners, and that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

On June 3, 2021, the Knight Institute filed a FOIA request seeking the prompt release of the Biden administration’s review of the State Department’s and Department of Homeland Securities’ use of social media handles in the visa vetting process.

Status: Stayed until further order of the court. Following completion of the Biden administration’s review of the use of social media identifiers in screening and vetting, the government filed a status report stating that it did not anticipate taking any action that would moot the case.

Case Information: Doc Society v. Blinken, No. 1:19-cv-03632 (D.D.C.).

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