Study On Government Surveillance And Self-Censorship

A study authored by Elizabeth Stoycheff, an assistant professor at Wayne State University, was recently published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, which examined the “spiral of silence” theory and its effects in a post-Snowden world.

The spiral of science theory was first proposed by political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, which states that people have a fear of isolation. A member of a group may become isolated by exclusion because of their opinions and thus causes people to essentially self-censor themselves.

“Public opinion scholars have consistently showed that perception of hostile opinion climates—or when individuals believe their views differ from the majority—significantly chills one’s willingness to publicly disclose political views (for reviews, see Glynn, Hayes, Shanahan, 1997; Scheufele Moy, 2000; Shanahan, Glynn, Hayes, 2007). And recent scholarship has begun to explore how this relationship upholds in online environments. But U.S. Patriot Act provisions that grant the National Security Agency (NSA) the ability to surreptitiously monitor the online activities of U.S. citizens may make online opinion climates especially chilly.”

The study aimed to understand how the spiral of silence works online. It looked at how individuals perceive the climate of opinion and the influence

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