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(Il)legal Drugs and Social Media

(Il)legal Drugs and Social Media

Within the scope of this project, the discourses in social media on the topics of drug policy and drug consumption will be researched in an explorative way. In a first step, the data from Twitter will be collected in order to get an overview of the topics and actors.
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Project Description

Context and goals

Traditional mass media have been considered as an important player setting the drug-policy agenda and constructing drug narratives often fuelling ‘moral panics’ (framing). While the popularity of social media (e.g. social networking sites, discussion forums, blogs, micro-blogging services) has exploded over the past years, there has been little inquiry into how these issues of ‘framing’ and ‘agenda setting’ apply under these new circumstances. The main objective of this study is to examine how and by whom (il)licit drugs are framed in social media and how social media may inform and galvanise policymakers to pay attention to this particular issue (agenda setting).



For the two research axes the following methodological approach applies: a qualitative research design, including:

1. A qualitative discourse analysis in order to investigate Twitter on data (i.e. tweets and retweets, photos, videos, hashtags, URLs, etc.) that aligned with issues of cannabis and prescription drugs.

2. In-depth interviews with Belgian drug policy-makers in order to understand the perceptions of policymakers as to the nature of and the extent to which social media may inform the policy agenda.

Project Information


Duration: 2016-2019

Research programme:
FP4 - Algorithmed Public Spheres

Third party

Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)

Cooperation Partner

Dr. Julie Tieberghien
Department of Criminology, Criminal Law, and Social Law

Contact person

Prof. Dr. Cornelius Puschmann
Professor at the University of Bremen

Prof. Dr. Cornelius Puschmann

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 55
Fax +49 (0)40 45 02 17 77

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