As if you needed another reason to stop posting on Facebook.
The Trump administration is reportedly working in collaboration with the Social Security Administration to develop a plan for combing through social media posts for evidence — whatever that means — that those receiving certain types of government benefits should have those benefits denied. That’s right, your ‘gram-worthy vacation pics could soon cause you to lose your disability insurance benefits.
So reports the New York Times, which cites “administration officials” as confirming that the White House is “actively” working on making this authoritarian fever dream a reality. The idea is not a new one, the Times notes, having been suggested in an earlier Social Security budget request, but this new reporting confirms that it’s moved past the conceptual phase.
Essentially, the proposal relies on the belief hat people with disabilities can never do physically active things and that all disabilities are visible. It also overlooks the simple fact that not all photos posted to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter are in fact current.
Imagine a photo of you smiling and holding a golf club next to another person on a sunny day. You, a person on disability for back problems, must be lying about your health status according to the logic of the plan. No matter the extenuating circumstances — the clubs were actually a gift to your dad on Father’s Day, for example, or the photo was taken years ago — you might get pegged for committing fraud.
That what you post to social media could be mined and used against you by some opaque organization is an idea as old as social media itself. Credit card companies have been analyzing our online posts for years, and we’ve all heard the horror stories of universities and colleges looking at applicants’ Twitter and Facebook feeds. What makes this latest plan so pernicious, however, is that we’re not talking about a credit card application getting declined.
Rather, the issue is a financial benefit being pulled out from under someone all because of a poorly considered Facebook post.
Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration the potential for a new form of trolling to arise in response to the Trump administration’s plan: fake social media accounts set up with the express purpose of targeting those receiving disability payments and getting them flagged for manufactured fraud.
If you don’t think that’s a real concern, then you haven’t spent enough time online (and, honestly, you should probably stick with that healthy lifestyle choice).
For now, the only real protection we may have against this form of governmental overreach may be not posting personal pics or revealing details of any kind to social media. Which, frankly, is a good idea regardless of whatever madness this administration cooks up. And hey, apps like Signal work great for sharing beach pics.
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