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Producers Sue Trump Administration Over Social Media Registration

With the aid of the Brennan Center for Justice and Knight First Amendment Institute, two documentary film groups, Doc Society and the International Documentary Association, have filed suit against new rules--part of President Trump's "extreme vetting" of immigrants--that require most visa applicatants to register their social media accounts, including pseudonyms, with the government. 

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. 

They say the new State Department rules, which took effect last May, affect 14.7 million applicants and require them to identify all social media "identifiers" they have used on 20 platforms over the last five years, including on Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, and YouTube 

According to the groups, both State and the Department of Homeland Security can keep the information indefinitely and share it, including with foreign governments in some cases. 

The groups represent documentary producers worldwide, some of which use pseudonyms to protect themselves and their families from reprisal for their work. 

“We regularly work with filmmakers for whom the ability to maintain anonymity online can be a matter of life and death," said Jess Search, director of Doc Society. "As an organization committed to filmmaker safety, we believe the registration requirement is a deeply troubling and oppressive development, forcing filmmakers to choose between free online expression and their own security." 

They says that social media screening, which means having to identify themselves with pseudonyms to the government, has deterred some members from applying for visas for screenings and other events, limiting their ability to share their work with U.S. audiences. 

The suit contends that the registration requirement is not narrowly tailored, as speech restrictions must be if they are to pass First Amendment muster. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.