NSA Spying Has Led Writers To Self-Censor
November 12, 2013 by Sam Rolley
A new survey conducted by a leading literary organization finds that the recent revelations of pervasive spying on American citizens have had a chilling effect on the intellectual freedom, creativity and social discourse of American writers.
The PEN American Center, a nonprofit literary group, partnered with the FDR Group to produce the report titled â€śChilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor,â€ť which notes that 85 percent of writers expressed worries about the governmentâ€™s ongoing surveillance of American citizens. Seventy-three percent of respondents said that they â€śhave never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today.â€ť
The report also notes:
–28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities, and another 12% have seriously considered doing so;
–24% have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it;
–16% have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic, and another 11% have seriously considered it;
–16% have refrained from conducting Internet searches or visiting websites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious, and another 12% have seriously considered it;
–13% have taken extra steps to disguise or cover their digital footprints, and another 11% have seriously considered it;
–3% have declined opportunities to meet (in person, or electronically) people who might be deemed security threats by the government, and another 4% have seriously considered it.
Writer comments on the matter included statements like: â€śI assume everything I do electronically is subject to monitoring.â€ť
And: â€śI feel that increased government surveillance has had a chilling effect on my research, most of which I do on the Internet. This includes research on issues such as the drug wars and mass incarceration, which people donâ€™t think about as much as they think about foreign terrorism, but is just as pertinent.â€ť
A similar chilling of creative expression and research by U.S. writers and journalists occurred after the passage of the Â 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions allowing the Federal government to detain indefinitely any citizen suspected of aiding foreign terrorist organizations. The Act sparked a lawsuit by activists and reporters â€” including such notable names as Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf and Daniel Ellsberg â€” who claimed a section of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Barack Obama in December, could give the Federal government legal powers to detain any dissident voices.