A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Self-censorship is defined as censorship imposed from within out of fear of the consequences.

Put more bluntly, it’s the practice of keeping our mouths shut.  A journalist living and working in a repressive society may refrain from writing about government corruption out of fear of going to jail or worse; a celebrity might decide against writing personal memoirs that would expose family secrets and put him at risk of losing his inheritance.

A recent study by Facebook suggests that we all practice some form of self-censorship.  Study authors Sauvik Das and Facebook’s Adam Kramer collected and analyzed data from 3.9 million Facebook users over 17 days in July 2012.  They found that 71% of users self-censor at the last minute when posting.

The study found that people decide to self-censor for several reasons:

(1)  users didn’t want to set off or continue an argument;
(2)  users didn’t want to offend others;
(3)  users didn’t want to bore others;
(4)  users didn’t want to post content that they believed might be inconsistent with their      self-representations; and
(5)  users neglected to post due to technological constraints (e.g., inconvenience of using a
mobile app)

And oh, by the way, if you’re wondering how the study authors came up with their data:  They say they didn’t read private messages and monitor what, exactly, was erased.  But they can track the changes in the code whenever a user enters characters into one of the update boxes. Researchers also tracked anything types in comment boxes and could track whenever characters were deleted.

They say they simply deduced that self-censorship was taking place if a post or comment took more than 10 minutes to write and was at least five characters long.

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