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US restricting visas in global spyware fight

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new policy Monday that will allow the U.S. to impose visa restrictions on individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware.

The visa restrictions can be levied against those involved in the use of commercial spyware “to target, arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil, harass, suppress, or intimidate” journalists, activists, dissidents and members of marginalized or vulnerable communities.

People who facilitate or financially benefit from the misuse of commercial spyware also can face restrictions.

“The United States remains concerned with the growing misuse of commercial spyware around the world to facilitate repression, restrict the free flow of information, and enable human rights abuses,” Blinken said in a statement. “The misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”

“The United States stands on the side of human rights and fundamental freedoms and will continue to promote accountability for individuals involved in commercial spyware misuse,” he added.

The policy comes as part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to crack down on the misuse of commercial spyware.

Last March, President Biden issued an executive order barring the U.S. government from using commercial spyware that “poses risks to national security or has been misused by foreign actors to enable human rights abuses around the world.”

The Commerce Department has also placed several major spyware companies on a trade blacklist, including Cyrtox, Intellexa, NSO Group and Candiru.

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