On 27 January 2017, President Trump signed a controversial executive order suspending entry into the U.S. for 90 days of travelers from seven countries “of concern”: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. A week later, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking portions of that executive order from being enforced.
The web site USA Television capitalized on that controversy by pumping out a series of nearly identical fake news articles, each holding that President Trump had “signed a visa-free travel policy” for residents of a given country, ostensibly to “strengthen trade” with that country For example, one such article claimed such a policy had been implemented for Pakistani nationals:
The United States President, Donald Trump has signed an executive order to allow all Pakistan nationals travel to the United States without visas.
The new order, serving as a change in visa policy for Pakistanis traveling to the United States, would permit them stay in the U.S for a maximum period of 180 days for Tourism or Business purposes only. Stay over 180 days would therefore require a visa.
Trump says this measure is to strengthen trade between the United States and Pakistan.
However, Pakistanis who hold dual nationality will be banned from entering the United States if their other passport is from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — the seven Muslim-majority countries “of concern”.
In fact, in separate articles USA Television claimed President Trump had also implemented visa-free travel policies for citizens of Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Jamaica, Malawi, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Macau, and the entire Caribbean.
If USA Television and their ilk were to be believed, virtually anyone from anywhere in the world could now enter the U.S. for up to six months at a time without the need for obtaining a visa first.
Of course, none of this was true, as U.S. Embassies around the world noted on social media when these fake news stories gained enough traction that officials started receiving inquiries about them:
The United States does currently maintain a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows foreign nationals entry into the U.S. without the need for first obtaining visas. However, VWP participants must meet a series of requirements, they are only allowed visa-free entry for up to 90 (not 180) days, and they must be citizens of one of 38 countries designated by the program. None of the countries mentioned in the fake USA Television articles are among those designated countries, however, and visa requirements for their citizens to enter the U.S. have not changed.