Fading dots, disappearing lines - surveillance and Big Data in news media after the Snowden revelations
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When Edward Snowden downloaded and leaked documents on US collection and analysis of vast masses of communications data, he did so for a purpose. When Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, decided to publish from those documents, he too had a purpose. According to Rusbridger, their shared purpose was to engender public debates on a number of issues concerning Big Data intrusions into citizens’ communications. In this chapter, Tøndel and Sætnan analyse three years of Norwegian print news accounts to see to what extent these issues entered and remained in that branch of public discourse. They find that the Snowden leaks were far more successful than earlier leaks on the same topic. They received far more, broader, and deeper coverage than was achieved by earlier whistleblowers. They even led to some efforts at political reform. However, for a story to have lasting effect, it must be continually retold. Yet in that retelling, a story may change shape. Tøndel and Sætnan find that the Snowden story, though still being retold two years after the initial leaks made headlines, has devolved into a simpler story, mainly about Snowden as a person. And although Snowden remains the hero of that simpler story, it is being retold with far less detail as to who or what is the villain and as to what citizens should be doing to contain that villain.