Of all the things that could hinder travel plans, social media would not be considered one of them, right? But now your travel plans might be in jeopardy if you post “controversial” matter online. In a bid to catch inconsistencies submitted to immigration authorities, immigration and border security officials across several countries are keeping an eye on social media and online profiles. It is reported that the authorities will be looking for any post that is considered as hate speech under the host country’s laws.
MBA student Arpita Giri recently had to go through intense screening before getting a visa to travel to Europe. Arpita recalls, “When we were applying for the Italian visa, it was mentioned that social media handles would be checked. Ranting on social media has become a trend. Although, I have never posted such opinions, they can be perceived as wrong. Now that visas will be given only after thorough screening, it is important to ensure that what ever I post does not affect the culture or sentiments of others. There are many crimes happening, so it’s a good thing to keep a tab on such posts. It might be a difficult task for them to keep a tab on applicants, and a social media profile will give them a clue on how the person is.”
We are choosy about inviting guests home, and in the same manner, is it okay for a country to sanction visas based on such preferences? Santhosh Bhargava feels, “When it comes to inviting guests home, I am very choosy. The comfort level, the mind set, the behavioural patterns of friends or relatives matter. That sense of social responsibility has to be prevalent always. My facebook page is filled with pictures of places I travel to. But after this, following responsible posts on forums will only increase.”
By doing this, immigration and visa officials are also ensuring that the right kind of people enter. “I feel that it is very important to respect the law of land, and treat locals with civility. Therefore, checking an individual’s social background is a fair exercise although it isn’t completely fool-proof. Yet, it is a great way to ensure that habitual offenders do not get a visa,” he adds.
For city-based entrepreneur Ashwin Tiwary, social media has become an easy tool to disrepute a country’s image, “As a traveller who loves seeing new places and exploring new horizons, I feel that I have a responsibility about what I post online. I feel that it is my responsibility that the posts do not affect another country’s people. Everyone has their own thought process and experiences. It is not right to form a judgement about a country based on one person’s opinion. It is wise of for immigration authorities to ensure that people who undermine reputations are banned from getting a visa.”
Yet, with the world becoming a global village, this decision appears to be at cross purposes, according to Reema S Kumar, a visa agent who says, “The usual norm is that when Indians and Chinese travel anywhere, they do not come back. This kind of trend started in the
US and UK first. I feel that it’s not fair to be scrutinised based on what is posted on social media.”