About Netsafe Lab
Welcome to Netsafe Lab, which sits inside Netsafe to incubate ideas and run experiments.
The Lab will:
- work externally with others to solve online safety problems
- support internal collaboration between our teams
- serve our technical and data needs
The Lab will give an overview of Netsafe’s work to allow other people and organisations to see what we are doing, and spot any potential collaboration or partnership opportunities.
It is where we can innovate, or pick up on innovations by others, and assess their relevance for a New Zealand audience.
The concept of Netsafe Lab is born out of our proud history of building productive relationships and working with others in the online safety ecosystem. For over 25 years, we have produced data and research to assess and respond to the online safety and digital issues of our time. Much of this has been through grant funding and working with others. We know that collaboration is the key to continuing to meet these challenges.
Our mission is to provide a collaborative space to identify problems and find innovative solutions.
Online safety tools
Our focus is on building and testing tools and infrastructure to support online safety activities and systems.
Our work includes research and response to online scams and issues covered by the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) such as online abuse and bullying. As digital communications and the issues raised change, so do we.
Online safety insight
By fostering collaboration, the Lab aims to:
- share insights and problems to be solved
- contribute to a wider body of knowledge and
- promote the appropriate use of tools and infrastructure to solve online safety problems.
The Lab provides training opportunities, facilitates community initiatives, and seeks to mitigate online risk. Doing so will increase public trust and confidence in the use of online spaces and places. Our goal is to contribute to multiple projects, involving practitioners from diverse sectors.
Netsafe Lab will help focus our efforts on the constantly evolving space of online safety, to:
- build our capabilities and capacity to plug into international initiatives
- ensure we have the latest insights to direct our efforts and
- lead the public discussion.
This will help improve the protection of children and young people when using the internet, including social media and online gaming.
Netsafe Lab has three current focus areas. These are continuously refined, dependent on a number of factors including feedback from the wider online safety community, new tool development, funding and capacity.
Machine learning AI and products
We are developing programs to monitor online safety trends, media reports, case studies and surveys, using machine learning AI and products.
Online safety tools and open source techniques
Our work using open source tools focuses on how they can be used to improve online safety for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Our goal is to contribute to the safety and trust of these applications.
We proactively seek out tools that will help monitor and prevent harms, and improve safety outcomes for the people using them.
Not all our work on this theme is focused on minimising harm. We also publish insights and create materials to raise awareness about emerging online issues that benefit end users and offer a safe and positive online experience.
Data and insights
The goal of our work on this theme is to bridge the gap between government, academia and industry’s understanding of the reality of people's experiences using the internet, online spaces and places. We do this through surveys, market research, studies, incident management, and other initiatives.
We are currently working on a new project to enhance, streamline and uplift our data capabilities, products and public reporting.
Our multidisciplinary team is made up of technical and online safety policy staff with many years’ experience in a wide range of fields.
We regularly work with private contractors, masters’ students and academia, who support us with projects linked to our insights themes.
We.advise government, industry and civil society on policy approaches, communication and educational approaches that contribute to online safety.
We participate in international online safety and industry events, such as ICANN every year, contributing and sharing insight and experience to identify and develop industry best practices. Find more information on some of our key partners:
Netsafe Lab: our work
Netsafe Lab develops tools and resources to assist with online safety in New Zealand by:
- developing our databank
- looking at ways we can support fellowship and partnerships, and grants opportunities, to stimulate fresh thinking, advocacy and action on online safety
- partnering with government, the private sector, academia and researchers to co-design solutions for online safety
- working closely with the people who use online safety platforms and
- identifying areas for immediate policy action.
Our approach is open and hands-on. We analyse large volumes of data, develop tools, and experiment with open, machine learning and automation techniques.
This output is used to support Netsafe’s education and operations teams by boosting the resilience of our online safety services and products. This includes chat AI functions, statistical reporting and sentiment analysis.
Our work is used to help universities, strategic partners and research centres develop and improve the online safety ecosystem.
Rescam intervention tool
At Netsafe, we attach great importance to our scams work, so we are always looking at ways to disrupt scammers’ impact. We developed Rescam to help New Zealanders rescam the scammers. Watch how it works here.
Netsafe is participating in the University of Swansea’s Project Dragon. We are contributing to the development and testing of two tools, Online Grooming Spotter and / or Online Grooming Shield. Watch a video explaining the project here.
Datification of Children
The University of Otago Department of Marketing is examining how children’s online data is recorded, tracked, analysed and used for commercial purposes. This includes targeted advertising and marketing, and data sharing. Netsafe is part of the Advisory Team assisting with the research between 2023 and 2026.
The Alan Turing Institute Counter Messaging Project
Netsafe is working with researchers from The Alan Turing Institute on a project to analyse abusive content on social media. This is currently focusing on posts mentioning English Premier League footballers and members of the UK parliament on Twitter. The project aims to understand how best to tackle or respond to online abuse.
We are trying to answer a range of questions, such as how the public responds to online abuse, what the role of counter speech plays, and how AI can help solve abuse by developing tools that detect and semi-automate counter speech. Read more about the project here.
University of Auckland, Department of Computer Science, Human-Centred Phishing Susceptibility Research Programme
Netsafe is an industry partner of the Human-Centred Phishing Susceptibility Research programme, comprising of researchers and partners from The University of Auckland, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Tainui Group Holdings, NIWA and ESR, Datacom and Spark.
Together we are combining aspects of social engineering, psychology and cyber security to focus on the people side of phishing attacks. A goal of our program is to better understand targeted individuals' personality, demographics and contextual situations. By 2028 the Project aims to support a NZ$25million per annum reduction in the cost of phishing attacks, improve the producitivty of NZ Tech's workforce by NZ$9m per annum and increase export revenue by NZ$100m through the development of new products. Read more at Computer scientists investigating new ways to prevent phishing | UniServices
Kora chatbot AI
Kora works to answer questions about the Harmful Digital Communications Act, digital safety concerns, online safety issues and how to resolve complaints.
The chatbot will take enquiries around the clock, provide greater access to justice through digital innovation, and free up frontline staff to handle more complex matters. The grant also supports legal review of the questions and answers, to ensure compliance with current laws and complaint options.
Netsafe receives more than 20,000 incident reports a year related to online safety. Kora is a way for New Zealanders to access information and exercise legal rights when the Netsafe helpline is closed.
Netsafe has partnered with Yabble to use its platform for market research. The software allows us to work in collaboration with our stakeholders locally and globally to innovate, activate and provide feedback on our products and services.
We are currently planning an insights survey asking New Zealanders about misinformation, malinformation and disinformation as a benchmark ahead of the October 2023 New Zealand general election.
World Economic Forum Global Principles on Digital Safety
The Global Coalition for Digital Safety is a public-private platform for global, multi-stakeholder cooperation. Its role is to develop innovations and advance collaborations that tackle harmful content and conduct online. Members of the coalition include tech platforms and safety tech players, governments, civil society and academia.
We worked on the development of a set of Global Principles for Digital Safety. These address the key question of how international human rights principles translate to a digital context. In particular, these principles address questions around governance across public and private sector, and tensions between safety, privacy, freedom of expression. They consider a system-level and future-centric approach to digital safety. Read more about this initiative.
Netsafe contributes to a broad range of online safety governance processes and issues.
We provide strategic advice to key participants in the education and tech sectors, industry, governments and the Asia Pacific region.
We provide niche services for organisations including:
- establishment of industry codes of practice, including the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms
chairing and moderating; meetings support
networking and introductions
reports and technical paper development and
- government meetings, briefings and support.
Netsafe and Te Mana Whakaatu
Classification Office have requested proposals to develop qualitative research with rangatahi. The research will explore young people's experiences and views about media content (we expect social media will be the primary focus of discussions), online behaviour, and the potential impacts on body image and associated health and wellbeing issues. The research aims to address a gap in knowledge about these issues in Aotearoa, and to raise awareness and see educational resources developed. Research findings may also inform the development of policy and regulatory responses to young people’s engagement with this content and clinical or therapeutic responses, awareness and understanding. The research will also inform the classification work of the Office and Netsafe’s public harm prevention campaign work.
Join Netsafe Lab as an individual or as an organisation to work in the areas of digital safety, cyber safety, and online wellbeing and resilience.
Scale an existing idea and join forces with Netsafe and other social impact minded folks seeking solutions and support to create safe and positive online spaces and places.
We have arranged short term residencies such as student placements on a range of topics, including running workshops, developing lesson plans, and Youth Action Squad (YAS) training workshops in the community.
Get involved in Netsafe Lab
Our supporters, members and partners are our lifeblood. Thanks to their collaboration and generosity, we are able to work on more ways to improve New Zealand’s online safety ecosystem.
We are always on the look out for interested parties to contribute to our work voluntarily, or to work with us to seek philanthropic or commercial funding to work on online safety projects.