Following information provided by Edward Snowden about the government‘s digital surveillance practices, instances of self-censorship on the Internet has increased, reveals a study by Digital Fourth coalition and MIT researchers.
According to the study, Internet goers have decreased their collective use of search terms likely to attract the government’s attention by about 2.2-percent. These include things like the words bomb and guns.
In what is said to be the “first academic empirical evidence” of such a phenomenon, the study looked at Google’s public search data and identified a pattern of reduced so-called sensitive search terms — that is, one’s that would draw the potentially negative eye of the US government.
The contrast is stark when compared to search terms related to privacy, meaning things one wouldn’t want a spouse or friend to find — in these cases, only a slight drop in search terms was identified. All this was despite slight rises in other search terms, pointing towards an issue that privacy advocates and others have expressed concerns over for months.