NSA Spying Causing Self-Censoring by Authors

With the recent news reports about NSA spying on phone calls, Internet surveillance, secret drones, cameras and indiscriminate privacy invasion, many writers are now choosing to self-censor their work.

In a recent report from the PEN American Center taken from a survey of their members the spying is having a large impact on the writing community.

From the survey:

24% of respondents said: “they have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it.” 

16% said: “they have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic, and another 11% have seriously considered it.”

85% of writers responding to PEN’s survey are worried about government surveillance of Americans

73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today

Many of those that responded left anonymous comments stating they are completely avoiding topics that might put them on the NSA’s surveillance list, and many more said they are now taking precautions such as meeting in person, vetting out contacts, and not emailing or texting what might be considered ‘watch list’ topics.

An anonymus respondent talked of an issue they experienced from the research they were conducting for a book. “”Selected’ for a special security search returning to the United States from Mexico twice last summer, I learned I was on a U.S. Government list. I was searched for ‘cocaine’ and explosives. I suspect … that I must have been put on the government list because of an essay I wrote … in which I describe finding a poem on a Libyan Jihad site, and ultimately express some sympathy for young men on the other side of the world who are tempted into jihad … one can see how [the poem] might be a comfort to jihadists.”

The repercussions of this will be far reaching, and will impact the “American Free Press” at many levels. Journalists are supposed to be government watchdogs, they are supposed to write the topics that make readers think, they are supposed to write the facts even when those facts are painful.

The decisions of writers, historians, and journalists to self-censor because of implied repercussions will have detrimental impact on the free press.

You can read the entire survey at the PEN website here. 

Are you an author who self-censors? Or will you be doing so in the future?




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