[ExI] Surveillance has reversed the net's capacity for social change

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Mar 29 19:22:01 UTC 2016



Sociologists describe the "spiral of silence": people with socially
unpopular ideas fear that they're the only ones who think that way,
and say nothing, and their silence convinces others that they, too are
alone, begetting yet more silence.

One of the Internet's most radical properties is its capacity to break
this deadlock. The ability to speak anonymously or pseudonymously,
along with the ability to private search for and read forums
discussing transgressive ideas has emboldened people who have minority
points of view and created discourse that has given rise to social
justice movements from #blacklivesmatter to the trans rights movement
to marijuana reform, as well as social phenomena like the rise of
polyamory and steampunk and cosplay and other minority practices whose
adherents are thinly spread across the world, but who are numerous in

But with the Snowden revelations and the widespread understanding of
ubiquitous Internet surveillance (something that a minority was always
aware of, of course), sociologists have observed a marked chilling
effect on political and social discourse, as people who disagree with
the majority fear that their searches and discussions will be
observed, correlated, logged and use to ascribe guilt to them.

In Under Surveillance: Examining Facebook’s Spiral of Silence Effects
in the Wake of NSA Internet Monitoring, Wayne State University
communications researcher Elizabeth Stoycheff looks at the way that
discussion of US interventions against ISIS have been discussed on
Facebook, documenting the chilling effect on a critical democratic


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list