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Researchers See a Post-Snowden Chilling Effect In Our Search Data 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the things-have-changed dept.
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "How risky is it to use the words "bomb," "plague," or "gun" online? That was a question we posed, tongue in cheek, with a web toy we built last year called Hello NSA. It offers users suggested tweets that use words that drawn from a list of watchwords that analysts at the Dept. of Homeland Security are instructed to search for on social media. "Stop holding my love hostage," one of the tweets read. "My emotions are like a tornado of fundamentalist wildfire." It was silly, but it was also imagined as an absurdist response to the absurdist ways that dragnet surveillance of the public and non-public Internet jars with our ideas of freedom of speech and privacy. And yet, after reading the mounting pile of NSA PowerPoints, are all of us as comfortable as we used to be Googling for a word like "anthrax," even if we were simply looking up our favorite thrash metal band? Maybe not. According to a new study of Google search trends, searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped "significantly" in the months since Edward Snowden's revelations in July."
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Researchers See a Post-Snowden Chilling Effect In Our Search Data

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:07PM (#46920925)

    select *
    from collected_data
    where HasWarrant = true

  • Self censoring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evtim (1022085) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:16PM (#46921017)

    Brilliant! The desired effect is achieved!

    Remind me again, wasn't the Internet hailed as a game-changer that would bring people together, make us better human beings, or at least different.

    Where is this profound change? It did not happen. Perhaps the optimists have underestimated people's distrust for the different? So, even though James and Ivan could chat while being 10000 miles away, and learn how for instance the media that feeds them is biased diametrically opposite, most of the time they didn't.

    But just to make sure, you know just in case the impossible happened, all governments in the world made sure we won't talk with each other. Let me not recount the endless torrent of censorship all over the place across the whole world - this is /. after all. But in line with the topic, let me just remark - if I want to speak with someone from, say, an Arab country, to discuss the situation and gain the others side view - how many words we would use in the discussion that would be in those lists? Tens at least, I am sure. Now I have to be afraid of being flagged, and it is not paranoia - do you want to bet your ass in Gitmo that Buttle/Tuttle thing won't happen? @#$% that!

  • Re:NSA incoming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:00PM (#46921397)

    Would it kill the President to take a stand here?

    Given what we now know about corruption and lawlessness in the US three-letter agencies, I'd have to say that it just might.

  • by AndyKron (937105) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:05PM (#46921435)
    Fuck the government
  • Important Legally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:24PM (#46921557)

    Actually, the results here are important legally. One important persuasive argument in free speech cases is the chilling effect on speech. Empirical data showing that people do *not* engage in certain speech because of a government practice is useful for lawyers arguing against the illegality of those practices.

  • by NF6X (725054) on Monday May 05, 2014 @06:03PM (#46923225) Homepage
    I recall seeing many Usenet posts ending with "NSA Line Eater Food" followed by lists of naughty keywords back in 1986 when I started college. The only differences are that now we have confirmation of what we took for granted back then (and probably before), and the scope is beyond what even the tinfoil hat guys believed.

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