After promising a review of former President Trump's requirement that visa applicants register their social media information with the federal government, the Biden administration appears to have decided to keep the requirement in place for the time being.
The Trump White House first put the requirement in place as part of its "extreme vetting" program for visa applicants following the ban on admitting immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries. The Knight First Amendment Institute, NYU's Brennan Center for Justice and the law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett then sued the State Department in December 2019 on behalf of two documentary organizations, arguing that the registration requirement violated first amendment protections by quelling protected speech.
The D.C. District Court paused its review of the case after the 2020 presidential election because the Biden administration planned to review Trump-era travel rules and appeared likely to lift or suspend them, meaning the case would become moot. But today, after having finished the travel-rules review, the administration filed a statement with the D.C. District Court that it did not plan to take any actions that would make the case moot or allow for its withdrawal.
"At this time, the Government does not anticipate taking any action that would moot the above-captioned case," acting assistant attorney general Brian Boynton wrote in the two-sentence filing.
"This development is particularly surprising — and disappointing — given the administration's review of the registration requirement, as well as its recent rejection of a Department of Homeland Security proposal to extend the same requirement to millions more people each year," Carrie DeCell, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, said in response to the filing.
Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @
anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.