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The Media Censorship Government Privacy

Fearing Government Surveillance, US Journalists Are Self-Censoring 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the except-the-ones-you-wish-would-self-censor dept.
binarstu writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for CNN, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
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Fearing Government Surveillance, US Journalists Are Self-Censoring

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  • Deluded ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:43PM (#45599155)

    Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free

    Continuing to believe that is a sign you're delusional, not 'free'.

    • Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free

      Continuing to believe that is a sign you're delusional, not 'free'.

      Ah, but they have the freedom to be delusional in any way they wish...

    • Re:Deluded ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tysonedwards (969693) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:08PM (#45599611)
      Continuing to believe that by self-censoring one can evade being the subject of government surveillance is a sign of being truly delusional.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nostromo53 (463047)

      Justice William O. Douglas had a pithy observation about this:

      "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

  • CSI is on TV right now, can this wait?
  • by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:47PM (#45599243)
    ... but their actions tend to contradict what they say.

    Torture and the taking of political prisoners are touted as flaws of third world dictatorships and communists v. waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay and attempts to arrest Snowden and others who have taken a political stance they don't like.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Torture and the taking of political prisoners are touted as flaws of third world dictatorships and communists v. waterboarding

      But, but ... they got a legal opinion that said it wasn't torture, so it's all above board, right?

      Of course, I'm sure the people putting that opinion forth never actually tried it themselves.

      That the US might now be exerting a little extra muscle around people for simply disagreeing with them is definitely scary. When your press starts to self-censor, you are rapidly becoming anythi

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When my father was a Luftwaffe Soldier/POW in US custody, he saw a German POW's foot being overrun by a US Army (or Army Air Force) truck on purpose. "To make the POW confess the killing of a downed US airman.

      So, torture is NOT new for U.S. forces.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When my father was a Luftwaffe Soldier/POW in US custody, he saw a German POW's foot being overrun by a US Army (or Army Air Force) truck on purpose. "To make the POW confess the killing of a downed US airman.

        So, torture is NOT new for U.S. forces.

        That is the point of the reference though. Killing and torture happen frequently in theaters of war, unfortunately. Even though torture is a very old practice in human culture, the US has been demonstrably exceptional in refusing to endorse (and actually condemning) the practice as policy.

        What the prior comment was highlighting, and what is only implied if you did not follow US policy from 2001 to now, is that such action has basically received official endorsement at the highest levels of government as a

    • by ewieling (90662) <user@NoSpam.devnull.net> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:48PM (#45600303)
      When I was growing up we were told some of the reasons the Soviets were so terrible is because people could not travel without "their papers", the Soviet government spied on its own citizens, the Soviets put people in secret prisons, the Soviets put people in prison without trial. Sounds a lot like the USA today. In the USA today these bad things seem mostly to be limited to "special circumstances", but they set a scary precedent. There are many great things about the USA, but pretending the bad stuff doesn't exist doesn't help the country, it undermines it.
  • Watching watchers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrex (25183) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:47PM (#45599249)

    The other three out of four were too fearful of their survey answers being logged by the NSA...

    • by Rufty (37223)
      I was going to mod, but couldn't decide between "Funny" and "Insightful".
  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:51PM (#45599317)
    Have you ever self-censored a comment on Slashdot due to fear of government surveillance:

    1) Yes. I wanted to share my improved tin foil hat design but fear that it might be compromised if it goes public.

    2) No. I have nothing to hide and I'm quite certain that the shadowy government agencies spying on me are sufficiently restrained by secret and democratically unaccountable courts. They all have my best interests in mind.

    3) I choose to self-censor this response.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      4) No. If you're not on at least one secret watch-list, you're not living.

    • by DFDumont (19326)

      4) I'm not engaged in any activity that even the most bored NSA spy would find interesting. Although, perhaps that tin (Al) foil hat design.....

      • by qbzzt (11136)

        If I am engaged in attempting to get NSA spies to commit suicide out of sheer boredom, is that something the NSA would find interesting?

        BTW, Nancy from the NSA, you know I like you and won't ever do that to you. Don't worry, this is just a joke.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      4) Fuck the NSA, SUCK IT BITCHES!, FUCK the IRS AUDIT MY BUTT HAIR, and FUCK OBAMA lying piece of shit.

      US Gov COME AT ME BRO!
  • no text, due to self-censoring

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:58PM (#45599439)

    Tell them to come to the UK and they can see _real_ journalism in action.

    In America, you have Ferengi style capitalism and call it "freedom".

    In the UK, we are certainly not perfect, but we also have capitalism, but with a social conscience, because we understand that in the long run, our way of doing things leads to more freedom for a greater number of people

    We also have a habit of telling people who would harm us to go and procreate with themselves. In America, a few thousand people are sadly killed and you cower in terror and throw away everything which made you so respected.

    In the UK, we have 7/7/2005 and then the citizens of London rode the tube in a large display of defiance sending a giant f***-you to the terrorists. Your journalists need to come over here and experience _our_ way of life.

    Oh, and Edward Snowden, a true American hero, trusted a _British_ newspaper to reveal the truth.

    That fact makes me proud to be British.

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:05PM (#45599567) Homepage Journal

      Maybe it's time for you freedom-loving Brits to rise up and overthrow the tyranny of American imperialism.

    • Rightly so.

    • ... That's the same UK that has essentially outlawed porn and "rude behavior," right?

      Hey, isn't your capital city the one that's literally blanketed in high-tech surveillance equipment, has some sort of terrorist attack every year, and has a mayor who thinks the mean ol' poor should be punished for picking on the poor, innocent uber-wealthy?

      The same UK whose government is, right now, running your so-called 'free' press through the ringer for the Snowden disclosures?

      I wouldn't engage in a 'whose government i

      • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @11:39PM (#45604723)

        Hey, isn't your capital city the one that's literally blanketed in high-tech surveillance equipment,

        Most of it is privately owned.

        You'll find the same level of surveillance in any city as you would in London if you included all the private cameras in the statistics. At least in London they have to notify you that you're being survived. I recently walked into an LA shopping mall and found 14 security cameras at the entrance.

        For all the cameras in London, nothing comes close to the abuses of the NSA. Cameras might accidentally catch you doing something, the NSA is actively looking for things to use against you.

        The same UK whose government is, right now, running your so-called 'free' press through the ringer for the Snowden disclosures?

        The UK is big on accountability, they're still dragging Newscorp through that very same ringer for the voicemail "hacking" scandal. The thing with inquests in commonwealth countries is that they're run by non political organisations and politicians have to accept the result even if it's the complete opposite of what they wanted.

        But lets compare this to the US government who has for years, conducted an illegal war started with fabricated evidence, imprisoned and tortured people including citizens of allied countries in secret prisons and on the subject of Snowden, has pretty much declared him guilty and sentenced him in absentia.

        As an Australian, in order to gain entry I had to provide the US with more information than I had to provide the Australian government to get a National Police Clearance or the Canadian government to get a work permit. In fact the US has been the only nation I've travelled to where I've needed apply in advance to enter or declare where I'm staying to the airline before I even get on the plane.

        So really, the UK looks like a bastion of freedom compared to the US (Despite the attempts of the Conservatives to ruin it and sadly, they're trying to do the same thing in Oz).

  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:59PM (#45599453)
    Maybe if the so-called press had done their job in the the first place over the last 20 years we would be in this mess.
  • by doctor woot (2779597) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:59PM (#45599469)

    Man, this is some [GOOD NEWS]. I hope congress quits [WORKING TOO HARD FOR THEIR OWN GOOD], pulls their [HARD WORK AND COURAGE] out of their own [LOVE FOR THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE] and finally [TAKES THAT PAID VACATION THEY ALL WELL DESERVE].

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:02PM (#45599519)

    Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care...

    It may only seem that way. Ordinary Americans are worried about suveillance too.

    I'm even wondering if I should post this comment anonymously.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:03PM (#45599531)

    nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance

    That's not exactly what the report said, and I'm just skimming the thing here.

    http://www.pen.org/sites/default/files/Chilling%20Effects_PEN%20American.pdf [pen.org]

    28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities, and another 12% have seriously considered doing so;
    24% have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it;
    16% have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic, and another 11% have seriously considered it;
    16% have refrained from conducting Internet searches or visiting websites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious, and another 12% have seriously considered it;
    13% have taken extra steps to disguise or cover their digital footprints, and another 11% have seriously considered it;
    3% have declined opportunities to meet (in person, or electronically) people who might be deemed security threats by the government, and another 4% have seriously considered it.

    Boiled down: about one-third of the American press are chickens, about two-thirds are not.

    .

    • by jfengel (409917)

      I'd be curious to know about the makeup of their sample. Are those two-thirds of non-chicken writers covering the Hollywood and sports team beats, and therefore have nothing to be brave about? Or does their cowardly sample consist primarily of paranoiac bloggers who write lengthy screeds about how they're not allowed to write lengthy screeds?

      The set of people who actually do journalism about the government, the ones who could potentially get access to real secrets and understand the context they fit into, i

  • by qbzzt (11136) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:03PM (#45599539)

    It is too easy to eavesdrop on communication. There is no way to avoid it happening, whether by corporation, the government, or a criminal gang.

    We could decide to keep ourselves safe by self-censorship and accept the loss of freedom of speech. Or, we can continue to act normally. If the government has to contend with 0.1% of the population who are loud malcontents, the malcontents have a problem. If the government has to deal with 90% of the population who are loud malcontents, the government has a problem. They can't put us all in jail or shoot us.

    I'll be damned if I let freedom of speech slip away. We didn't get it because of government benevolence (see The Old Issue by Kipling [fourmilab.ch]), and we won't keep it by being timid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      North Korea proves that it's possible for a small group, less than 1%, to control an entire nation of millions of people and essentially run the entire country like one big permanent, 24/7, cradle-to-grave, prison camp. The peasentry in the DPRK vastly outnumber the ruling party but they don't rise up. It used to be that at least you got fed and clothed by your oppressive government in exchange for your souls--they don't even give them that anymore; yet still they don't rise up and revolt. It's often said t

  • Were on the anti-Bush bandwagon, yet happily jumped on the pro-Obama bandwagon once it rolled into town.

    I can't believe how short sighted the media is, scratching at the feet of the President wanting approval.
  • "The world's most free" ?? That is a joke. If and when the journalists of a country - the journalists, for crying out loud - stop to mention certain topics on the phone because their government might be interested in the conversation, then that country is by all standards modern NOT free.
    • There is no evidence that this action is anything but voluntary.

      Come back when these journalists are actually being restrained.

  • But what choice do we have? We speak out or they speak out instead of the death squad you get notified the IRS is going to audit you for however many arbitrary years they now changed the time limit for audits to. Last I heard instead of the 7, it was raised to 10, who knows what it is today or will be tomorrow.
  • It just kills me that those in power with their jingoistic cries of "they hate our freedom" are the ones stripping us of our freedom. It kills me even more that we, as a nation, keep electing them. It's as if we are actively doing this to ourselves.

    • It just kills me that those in power with their jingoistic cries of "they hate our freedom" are the ones stripping us of our freedom.

      Well, appeal to emotion is one of the most effective propaganda techniques, you know.

      That's why they put children in ads for damn near everything, or use "for the children" as an excuse for bad behavior - because what good, honest, 'Christian' (since we're talking about 'Murica) person would ever disagree with helping children? Do you hate children or something?

      Stupid, yes. Counter-productive, yes. Effective, big-ol-honkin' yes.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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