Journalists are considered the gatekeepers of selecting news, who inform the public of current issues around the world. By using framing, journalists try to influence how the reader will interpret a topic or issue in a certain way. It is widely known that the use of social media has increased over the years, but so has the power of tech companies. The Social Dilemma is a Netflix documentary that reveals the multiple ways human beings are being manipulated by social platforms. When it comes to The Social Dilemma, it is uncertain how journalists portray the documentary regarding surveillance and privacy. Many social media users are unaware of the extent tech companies have over their data. Both surveillance and privacy are sensitive topics that people can have a different opinion on. How journalists portray the documentary can influence how readers perceive surveillance and privacy. The purpose of the study was to uncover and understand how American journalists portray the documentary, with regards to surveillance and privacy, by answering the following research question: How do journalists represent The Social Dilemma with regards to privacy and surveillance? Using a qualitative critical discourse analysis, a total of 22 liberal and conservative news platform articles were examined by looking at the linguistics and visuals used to frame the topics of surveillance and privacy. The results showed that journalists reported more about surveillance issues compared to privacy violations. The majority of the portrayals of both issues were negative, although some articles also mentioned positive outcomes from tech companies and were optimistic about taking responsibility to protect user’s data. The visuals included in the articles did not provide meaning-making to a text, as most of the images were shots taken from the documentary. Only one image hinted towards surveillance and privacy invasions. Both the liberal and conservative articles had similar ways of reporting about surveillance and privacy. Liberal articles tended to be slightly more objective compared to conservative ones. On the other hand, liberal articles expressed more concern towards the issues by portraying users as victims, whereas conservative articles did not put all of the blame on tech companies and acknowledged users to take more responsibility.

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Dr. Izabela Derda
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Zilah Esmée Vukkink. (2021, July 31). What Does the Media Say About Social Media? A comparison of The Social Dilemma press coverage with regards to social media surveillance and privacy.. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from