PEN America survey: Mass surveillance causing self-censorship among writers


Sixty-six percent of American writers disapprove of their government’s collection of phone and internet data, according to a survey from the PEN American Center.

The survey of 540 US writers found that a majority assume that their communications are monitored. PEN says that this assumption has prompted some to self-censor when writing or researching certain subjects or communicating with sources, or friends, abriad.

“I assume everything I do electronically is subject to monitoring,” one writer said in responding to the survey.

The report states:

This assumption is striking: in a short span of time, the United States has shifted from a society in which the right to privacy in personal communications was considered inviolate to a society in which many writers assume they have already lost the right to privacy and now expect to be spied upon almost constantly.”

Survey respondents were concerned about the US framework for surveillance would become “business as usual” for the rest of the world.

Writers reported self-censoring on subjects including military affairs, the Middle East North Africa region, mass incarceration, drug policies, pornography, the Occupy movement, the study of certain languages and criticism of the US government.”

Read the full report here