In late 2014, the U.S. government began ramping up the use of social media for immigration vetting. What began as a small cadre of officers manually checking certain applicants’ social media accounts has since expanded dramatically: as of June 2019, the State Department will require the roughly 15 million foreigners who apply for U.S. visas each year to disclose all social media handles and usernames. In fall 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a similar initiative for all other visitors. The timeline below shows the progression of these initiatives and responses from civil society.
Social media monitoring technology provides the capability to constantly monitor and archive information on millions of people’s activities, and can be used by law enforcement to probe posts for information on protests, potential threats, breaking news, and more. The below map depicts cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies across the United States that have spent at least $10,000 on social media monitoring software, according to public reports and information from the government procurement database SmartProcure.