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Big brother?

Poll: People are self-censoring discussion of the NSA on Facebook and Twitter

A newly released poll from Pew Research found a "spiral of silence" on the topic of mass NSA surveillance in which social media users are unwilling to discuss the issue online, particularly if their friends do not agree with them. Notably, this self-censorship was far more prevalent on the internet than in real life:

People were less willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in social media than they were in person. 86 percent of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the surveillance program, but just 42 percent of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to post about it on those platforms. [Pew]

Dr. Keith N. Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University, suggests that this poll shows more about the limited value of social media for political speech than it does about the NSA's chilling effect on public discourse: "We hear that there are all these new forums of discussion now, so people must be expressing themselves much more than in the past. But that's not what the data shows."

While the self-censorship evident in Pew's new poll may not be issue-specific, other recent surveys have found that one in six writers have self-censored because of concerns about NSA monitoring, and that Americans have decreased their searches of terms the NSA has flagged.