Knight Institute v. Department of State
Nate Kitch

Knight Institute v. Department of State

A FOIA lawsuit seeking records relating to the Biden administration’s review of the use of social media identifiers in visa vetting

On his first day in office, President Biden ordered the secretary of state, the secretary of homeland security, and the director of national intelligence to conduct a review of the use of social media identifiers in the visa vetting process. This lawsuit, filed on April 12, 2022, seeks records relating to that review.

The Biden administration’s review encompasses a Trump administration policy requiring an estimated 14.7 million visa applicants per year to disclose to the government all social media identifiers that they had used over the previous five years on any of 20 designated platforms. The mass collection and indefinite retention of visa applicants’ social media information chill online speech and deter individuals from applying for visas to travel to the United States. They also deprive U.S. residents of opportunities to hear from and engage with those individuals in person and online, raising significant First Amendment concerns.

Though President Biden ordered the agencies to complete a report summarizing their review of social media vetting policies by May 20, 2021, the report has not been made public. To bring the results of this review to light, the Knight Institute filed a FOIA request for the report and related records.

The Knight Institute is also litigating a constitutional challenge to the State Department’s registration requirement on behalf of two documentary film organizations, Doc Society and the International Documentary Association. Read more about that lawsuit here.

Agencies Involved: Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Status: Complaint filed on April 12, 2022.

Case Information: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Dep't of State, No. 1:22-cv-3003 (S.D.N.Y.)

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