WASHINGTON—PEN America released the following statement in response to the U.S. State Department’s new “extreme vetting” requirement that visa applicants provide information about their social media and email accounts:

“The U.S. government’s new policy is unlikely to provide any real security benefit and instead conjures up the way authoritarian governments seek to limit the free exchange of ideas,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington Director. “Not only does the policy create possible barriers to entry for people seeking to obtain visas to the U.S., but it may also cause potential visitors to think twice about whether they should post messages that might be viewed as critical of American policies or of the President himself. Given the President’s penchant for threatening to retaliate against news organizations for fact-based reporting – as he did just yesterday when he proposed a boycott of AT&T because he dislikes the way he is covered by its subsidiary, CNN—it is not unreasonable that individual visa applicants would fear the consequences of expressing their opinions on social media. This policy has the potential to chill online speech for people overseas, as well as for their friends and contacts in the U.S.”

PEN America has spoken out in opposition to Trump Administration visa policies that curtail international cultural exchange, including by filing an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down the third iteration of the Trump travel ban in the case of State of Hawaii v. Trump.

CONTACT: PEN America media consultant Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@pen.org