Surveillance changes the way we express ourselves and threatens to stifle free expression around the world. Join us in opposing mass surveillance.

To find out more about this campaign or see how you can take part, please contact Nik Williams at

“What surveillance really is, at its root, is a highly effective form of social control. The knowledge of always being watched changes our behaviour & stifles dissent. The inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there is no longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or implied. Most profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to eliminate the most vital element of both democracy & social movements: the mental space for people to form dissenting & unpopular views.”


The impact of surveillance on free expression is well documented; the perception of surveillance severely undermines the ability to communicate freely. In 2013 following the Snowden revelations, PEN America commissioned a survey of their membership to understand the impact of governmental surveillance on their writing.

“1 in 6 writers have avoided writing or speaking on a topic they thought would subject them to surveillance”

This was confirmed by a global survey undertaken by PEN International that stated: “writers living in liberal democratic countries have begun to engage in self-censorship at levels approaching those seen in non-democratic countries.”

Beyond this there has been research outlining the impact of surveillance on online wikipedia research and the airing of minority viewpoints and ideas on online communications platforms.

Surveillance undermines the ability of individuals to write, research and communicate and so represents a distinct threat to free expression. Without public debate on this vital issue, our ability to communicate and express ourselves freely will be stifled.

Causes we fight

Investigatory Powers Bill

Scottish PEN calls for greater protections of privacy and freedom of expression inside the Snooper’s Charter.

Op-Eds & Articles

Latest news and writing from Surveillance

Writing in the Margins

March 29, 2018

Hiding from watch lists and lost in translation: Marjorie Lotfi Gill on self-censorship

Marjorie Lotfi Gill explores what censorship means for her when writing about friends, family, and the Iranian Revolution.

November 24, 2016

Analyst Desktop Binder_REDACTED

Edinburgh-based writer Alice Tarbuck wrote a found words poem from keywords that alert the US government to terrorist threats.

November 11, 2016

Wigtown Book Festival: Big Brother’s Bookcase

Wigtown Book Festival celebrates the power of the written word but Scottish PEN is deeply concerned about how unwarranted and suspicionless surveillance can undermine the ability of novelists, poets and playwrights to express themselves free from coercion or duress.

September 9, 2016

What's On

Libraries for Privacy Workshop: Aberdeen

28 May

13:00 — 17:00

Committee Room, Aberdeen Central Library, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen, AB25 1GW

Scottish Chilling: Report Launch

14 Dec

18:30 — 20:00

Room 3.01, McCance Building , 16 Richmond Street, Glasgow, G1 1XQ