Whose Speech is Chilled by Surveillance?
"Women and young people are more likely to self-censor if they think they’re being monitored.
Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats backtracked on a promise
to disclose how many Americans’ communications have been swept up in
warrantless mass surveillance of foreign targets. In fact, Coats
admitted that even 'Herculean' efforts by the NSA would be unable to the
determine the number, which Reuters reports 'could be in the millions.'
...Activists and rights experts have long argued that such state activities and threats can have a significant chilling effect on our rights and freedoms. Though skepticism persists
about the existence of such chilling effects—they are often subtle,
difficult to measure, and people are unaware how they are
impacted—several recent studies have documented the phenomenon. My own research, which received media coverage last year, examined how Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance chilled people’s Wikipedia use.
Yet significant gaps remain in our understanding, including how certain
people, groups, or specific online activities may be chilled more so
than others, or the comparative impact of different state activities or
As it turns out, these threats likely do have a chilling effect on
things we do online every day—from online speech and discussion, to
internet search, to sharing content. And certain people or groups—like
women or young people—may be affected more than others.
These are among the key findings I discuss in my new chilling effects research paper, published in the peer-reviewed Internet Policy Review, based on an empirical case study from my doctorate at the University of Oxford...."
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