Study Reveals Writers’ Concerns Over NSA Surveillance

November 25, 2013

A study by the PEN America Center, released November 12, revealed that a significant number of writers surveyed share deep concern over the NSA’s surveillance practices. The survey, the result of collaboration between PEN America and independent researchers at the FDR group, took place in October. Of the 520 American writers polled, sixty-six percent disapprove of “the government’s collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts.” This represents a significantly higher percentage than that of the general public, which weighed in at a forty-four percent disapproval rate. Similarly, where fifty percent of the general public approve of NSA practices, only twelve percent of writers did. When discussing surveillance in general eighty-five percent of writers responding to the survey worry about government surveillance and seventy-three percent feel more worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press than they ever have before. In fact, writers find that they are altering their habits and repressing their will to speak freely, especially on topics they feel are controversial in today’s political climate.

The study posits that most, if not all, of the participating writers assume they are being monitored, and so are reluctant to write or speak about certain topics, will generally not pursue the research of some subjects, and are hesitant about communication with sources or friends abroad. Of the writers polled, twenty-eight percent report curtailing or avoiding social media activities, twenty-four percent deliberately avoid particular topics in conversations both on the phone and via email, sixteen percent refrain from conducting internet searches or visiting websites on controversial issues, thirteen percent have implemented ways of disguising their internet identities or digital footprints, and three percent have chosen not to meet with those who might be considered threats to security by the government. These numbers strongly imply that writers are now self-censoring in order to prevent problems arising from NSA surveillance. In its conclusion the study states “While it may not be surprising that those who rely on free expression for their craft and livelihood feel greater unease about surveillance than most, the impact on the free flow of information should concern us all.”

Source: PEN America

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