AAN joined more than 50 organizations and 90 individuals on a statement drafted by the Center for Democracy and Technology which opposes any attempts to require travelers disclose social media passwords when entering the country. Various proposals of this type have bounced around for several years, and the issue took on new urgency when DHS Secretary John Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee on February 7, 2017 that the Department of Homeland Security could require non-citizens to provide the passwords to their social media accounts as a condition of entering the country.
While Secretary Kelly’s statement was not specific to journalists and, in fact, was aimed at non-citizen, non-journalists (primarily those traveling from the 7 countries subject to the original “travel ban”) and may seem a bit outside our usual subject areas, there are direct connections to AAN members’ interests, including:
- General free speech and privacy concerns that are coming under increasing threat. As the statement notes: “Freedom of expression and press rights, access to information, rights of association, and religious liberty are all put at risk.”
- A fear that other governments will retaliate by instituting their own policies specific to US citizens, in which case any of our members who travel overseas – perhaps even on vacation – could be subject to the same obligations.
- The fear that this is the first step toward a DHS mandate of access to all public and private social media content and contacts.
- What seems to be an uptick in searches of journalists – even American journalists – at the border.
And these fears would be offset by minimal benefits, given that most of the people you’d want to catch would simply delete their social media accounts before reaching the border…