About us

The Internet, Social Media, and Politics Research Lab is dedicated to understanding the increasing impact of the internet and social media on societies.

The internet and social media have dramatically changed politics and society. On the one hand, they can be an important way to engage the public, build a sense of community and share vital information. On the other, they can be a source for conspiracy theories and disinformation and even a pathway to radicalization and violence.

Founded in 2022, the Internet, Social Media, and Politics Research Lab—Kōtaha (ISPRL), which is the first of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand, is dedicated to understanding the increasing impact of the internet and social media on societies through research, media commentary, public outreach, and partnerships with stakeholders in politics, the media, and society. The ISPRL also serves as a research hub and connects internet and social media scholars from a range of disciplines across the University.

Our team works on a diverse range of internet and social media topics, including political communication and campaign strategies on social media, in particular, dis- and misinformation; digital governments and smart cities; online forms of political participation and networked publics; big data and web scraping; cyber security in international relations; artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

The ISPRL houses the New Zealand Social Media Study (NZSMS), led by Dr Mona Krewel and conducted since the 2020 General Election. The NZMS is a long-term text analysis study on the political communication of political parties and leaders on Facebook. It has a permanent core and collects longitudinal data on key political topics over all data collection waves, as well as includes monthly alternating special topic modules based on what is present in the public discourse at the time (e.g., on disinformation in the context of Freedom Convoy protest, the social media communication about the COVID-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand).

The NZSMS is also part of the international research collaboration DigiWorld including research teams in 17 countries which allows for comparisons of the findings on the political social media communication in Aotearoa New Zealand with the findings in other countries. New findings from the study are made available monthly on this website.

In cooperation with Wellington UniVentures, the ISPRL also takes on commissioned social media research for external customers and helps bring possible clients together with the expertise of THW-VUW’s internet and social media researchers.