Your Twitter Handle May Be a Weapon

by | Dec 22, 2016

Not exactly, but Politico reports that the form non-Americans must fill out to enter the country on the “visa waiver” program – the ESTA – now includes an “optional” question where travelers can enter their social media account information. Yes, account information. Apparently not passwords, but account names. Writes Politico:

“The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites.”

Of course, the argument is, as The Verge notes, to “identify political threats.” Well, we wouldn’t have thought it would be anything else. Security can sell any moronic policy.

It is difficult to understand what the authorities could possibly expect to achieve by asking people for their Twitter handles when entering the country. But in the mind of a government bureaucrat or politician, this type of policy likely makes sense. After all, if there is a question asking about “internet presence,” surely a terrorist wouldn’t think of lying on the form. No, inconceivable.

Much more likely, to the bureaucrat/politician, terrorists will turn around before the border thinking “darn it, they got me” – or will simply refrain from terrorist activity altogether. After all, lying is immoral.

For those of us not thinking bureaucrats and politicians are actual morons and therefore understand a little bit about human behavior, this policy – optional now, but it will likely not be optional forever – is rather intended to gather information on whoever is not inclined to lie on a government form. That is, normal law-abiding people. In this case, those are the regular tourists and business people and those visiting friends and relatives. In other words, exactly the people the surveillance state is intended to control. Whether or not you are a citizen of the United States.

Welcome to America!

About Per Bylund

Per Bylund is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise in the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. His research focuses on issues in entrepreneurship, strategic management, and organizational economics – especially where they overlap and intersect with regulation and policy issues.

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