For the majority of respondents, the study concluded, being aware of government surveillance “significantly reduced the likelihood of speaking out in hostile opinion climates.”
Although more nuanced than a blanket silencing, the study still concluded that “knowing one’s online activities are subject to government interception and believing these surveillance practices are necessary for national security play important roles in influencing conformist behavior.”
Elizabeth Stoycheff, lead author of the paper:
What this research shows is that in the presence of surveillance, our country’s most vulnerable voices are unwilling to express their beliefs online. This finding is problematic because it may enable a domineering, majority opinion to take control of online deliberative spaces, thus negating deliberation.
Really. I would never have guessed. So, bug or feature?