Wikipedia:How global surveillance affects Wikipedia

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Global surveillance refers to the practice of globalized mass surveillance on entire populations across national borders. While it affects many aspects of our personal lives, it also has an impact on Wikipedia as a whole. This essay explains why.

Quality and quantity of Wikipedia's content[edit]

"Writers are not only overwhelmingly worried about government surveillance, but are engaging in self-censorship as a result."

PEN American Center, November 12, 2013[1]

Widespread government surveillance leads to self-censorship among writers and journalists; this phenomenon is also known as the chilling effect. In the aftermath of the global surveillance disclosures, a survey revealed that 16% of writers in the United States have completely avoided certain topics that they consider to be controversial, primarily by engaging in self-censorship.[2]

Since much of Wikipedia's content is based on the published secondary sources of independent writers, the quality and quantity of many controversial topics will inevitably decline.

Freedom of Wikipedia's readers[edit]

If the simple act of accessing an article on Wikipedia is put under surveillance, it will affect how Wikipedia is being read. According to the classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, Wikipedia is among several popular websites that are explicitly targeted by government surveillance.

Freedom of Wikipedia's editors[edit]

If every edit of an article on Wikipedia is put under surveillance, it will affect how Wikipedia is edited. Some editors may choose to use a pseudonym to hide their true identities when editing controversial articles, but that alone does not guarantee a completely anonymous editing session. Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance that editors do not succumb to a culture of fear and compliance. The greater the extent of surveillance, the more important it is for Wikipedia's editors to inform the world and educate readers about government secrecy.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor" (PDF). PEN American Center. November 12, 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  2. ^ David L. Ulin (November 12, 2013). "Why are writers being curbed by NSA surveillance?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 January 2014.