A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted “democratizing” effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.
The study finds that in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance people tend to silence dissenting opinions which are contrary to the commonly accepted views (called “Spiral of Silence”). The participants who shared the “nothing to hide” belief, those who tended to support mass surveillance as necessary for national security, were the most likely to silence their minority opinions.
“The adoption of surveillance techniques, by both the government and private sectors, undermines the Internet’s ability to serve as a neutral platform for honest and open deliberation. It begins to strip away the Internet’s ability to serve as a venue for all voices, instead catering only to the most dominant”