Pew Study: Facebook, Twitter Users Held Back Views On Snowden

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Pew Research Center report shows that Americans were more willing to have a conversation about NSA leaker Edward Snowden face-to-face than in discussion groups on Facebook or Twitter.


NPR's Business News begins with the spiral of silence. Let's explain what we mean here. Even before the Internet, people were unlikely to talk about controversial topics with a friend or coworker if they believed their viewpoints were not widely shared. This tendency is known as the spiral of silence and it turns out social media has made it even worse. That's according to a new report by Pew Research. Here's NPR's Aarti Shahani.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: The Pew study looks at one of the most controversial news stories of the last year. Edward Snowden versus the NSA. And it finds that Americans were much more inclined to talk about Snowden off-line than online.

KEITH HAMPTON: About 86 percent of Americans were willing to have a conversation about this particular political issue, either in person, at a community meeting, with family, with friends or with coworkers.

SHAHANI: Keith Hampton is lead author of the study.

HAMPTON: But only 42 percent of Americans were willing to have a conversation on the same political issue either through twitter or Facebook.

SHAHANI: And the small number that didn't want to talk about Snowden in person, that 14 percent, they did not turn to social media as a safe space to air their thoughts. In fact Pew finds that the platforms can silence self-expression, for example, among Facebook users.

HAMPTON: When they see that their social media friends don't agree with their opinions online, they're even less likely to have those discussions off-line.

SHAHANI: While the Internet is great for things to go viral, like the ice bucket challenge, the pew findings could make one less optimistic about how useful Facebook and Twitter are for nuanced debate. Aarti Shahani, NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from