Social media presence will now be part of the vetting process in U.S. immigration

Homeland Security booth
The American immigration process is nothing short of strenuous. And now, it’s about to get even harder. As part of continued repercussions from the tragedy in San Bernardino, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is reversing previous protocols that prevented officials from examining visa applicants’ social media presences as part of the vetting process.

Now, as social media becomes an increasingly dangerous weapon in the hands of terrorists and other radicalized individuals, law enforcement agents will more closely examine the online activity of individuals seeking entry into the U.S. As per a Wall Street Journal report, the DHS will now “scrutinize social media posts as part of its visa application process before certain people are allowed entry into the nation.”

The decision to allow Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, into the U.S. seemed to represent a breakdown in security regulations, officials noted, especially considering the purported digital evidence of her allegiance to radical groups. In fact, the day of the deadly attack, Malik took to Facebook (under a pseudonym) to declare her loyalty to the Islamic State terror group and its leader. While it is still unclear as to whether she made similar public posts in the preceding period, law enforcement agents are now looking closely at her social media footprint to uncover further clues and perhaps prevent similar attacks in the future.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what [went wrong] and how, but for an individual to be able to come into this country –– one who the FBI has maintained had terrorist tendencies or affiliations or sympathies at least for a couple years, and then to propagate an attack like that on our own soil, obviously, I think it’s safe to say there’s going to be lessons learned here,” said State Department spokesperson John Kirby.

ISIS has long been known for its social media savvy, often using Twitter, Facebook, and other more surreptitious methods to recruit new followers and spread its gospel. Back in 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson decided against allowing officials to examine social media profiles and messages, citing the possibility of “bad public relations” for the Obama administration as his reasoning.

“During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process,” said John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at DHS for intelligence and analysis. He left the DHS in June of last year and now works for ABC. Johnson continues to head DHS.

“Immigration, security, and law enforcement officials recognized at the time that it was important to more extensively review public social media postings because they offered potential insights into whether somebody was an extremist or potentially connected to a terrorist organization or a supporter of the movement,” Cohen added. Now, the WSJ reports that the “DHS only looks at [social media posts] intermittently and as part of three pilot programs that began in earnest earlier this year.” But many lawmakers are urging for more sweeping measures to be implemented.

On Sunday, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York called for more stringent social media checks. “Had they checked out Tashfeen Malik,” the senator said, “maybe those people in San Bernardino would be alive.”


From Jay Rock to Saba, these are the 50 best albums of 2018

We've spent the year listening to new albums, digging deep, and culling our master list into 50 favorites. From blockbuster releases to hidden gems, these are the best albums of 2018.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2, Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas, and more.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.