The global surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden have caused journalists to change how they operate, question what the government knows about them, and consider abandoning investigative reporting, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.
A significant number of the journalists surveyed said they had changed their behavior, whether it’s how they store sensitive files (49 percent), how they communicate with other journalists (29 percent), whether they’ve reached out to a source (13 percent), or pursued a specific story (2 percent).
Many are also convinced the government is gathering information about them. Some 64 percent of journalists believed intelligence agencies had “probably collected data” about them. (The other 36 percent, as “InfoSec Taylor Swift” joked, must not read the news.)
These fears have led 2 percent of the journalists surveyed to consider leaving investigative reporting entirely. That’s not surprising — many also believe neither their Internet service providers nor their employers have done enough to protect them or confidential sources.
This is a problem. It’s no secret that the United States has been waging a war on press freedoms, and without independent journalists many important things — including the revelations that prompted this survey — would never have been revealed to the public.
Mass surveillance might not have done a whole lot to prevent terrorist attacks, despite whatever the government claims, but it might be able to convince some journalists not to expose the government’s wrongdoing. Unfortunately, that might be considered just as large a “win” by those who believe controversial programs should never see the light of day.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]