"Who writes the rules on the internet?" - The conversation about Facebook in German news media between 2012 and 2021

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för strategisk kommunikation

Abstract: Facebook is one of the most powerful internet companies worldwide with little to few alternatives on the market. With the power and size, scandals are part of the company’s history, and the public perception is ever-changing. How Facebook is viewed by the public has an impact on the company’s success, especially since it is built on its users’ data. The public opinion can be impacted by how conversations are portrayed by the media, which further influences the company’s success and survival. Building on the importance of perception and managing of important public conversations, this study relies on strategic communication theory paired with the concept of corporate hypocrisy as this approach is relevant to understand the necessity for strategic communication in corporations operating in the public eye. The purpose of this study is therefore to examine the situation concerning public critique which Facebook has to navigate in German news media. A particular focus is set on underlying patterns in language and its development between 2012 and 2021 in Germany. To accomplish this purpose, a discourse analysis of 69 articles of three main German media outlets, CHIP, BILD and the Süddeutsche Zeitung was carried out. The results of the study suggest there are four main conversations about Facebook in German news media: Mark Zuckerberg, their business model, their power and the lack of transparency. All four discourses evolved into a more critical and accusatory reporting. The rhetoric analysis of the articles shows an underlying tone of mockery, irony and sarcasm. Moreover, the findings suggest that Facebook is strategically selective and restrictive in their communication with the media and the public.

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