March 17, 2016

"Research suggests that widespread awareness of...surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public."

motherboard: A paper published last week in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), found that "the government’s online surveillance programs may threaten the disclosure of minority views and contribute to the reinforcement of majority opinion.” by Nafeez Ahmed

'The NSA’s “ability to surreptitiously monitor the online activities of US citizens may make online opinion climates especially chilly” and “can contribute to the silencing of minority views that provide the bedrock of democratic discourse," the researcher found. The paper is based on responses to an online questionnaire from a random sample of 255 people, selected to mimic basic demographic distributions across the US population.

'The most significant conformist effect was from people who supported surveillance. They turned out to be more likely to conceal other dissenting opinions, which they felt strayed from the majority view.

'When such individuals “perceive they are being monitored, they readily conform their behavior—expressing opinions when they are in the majority, and suppressing them when they’re not,” the paper concluded. These findings suggest that a person’s “fear of isolation from authority or government” adds new “chilling effects” to public discourse.

'“What this research shows is that in the presence of surveillance, our country's most vulnerable voices are unwilling to express their beliefs online,” said Elizabeth Stoycheff, associate professor of journalism and new media at the Department of Communication, Wayne State University, and lead author of the paper. “This finding is problematic because it may enable a domineering, majority opinion to take control of online deliberative spaces, thus negating deliberation.”'

"Under Surveillance: Examining Facebook’s Spiral of Silence Effects in the Wake of NSA Internet Monitoring" by Elizabeth Stoycheff here

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