HCC project ‘Digital Wildfire’ has won a University of Oxford Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Award. These awards recognise high-quality research-led innovation across the University. Our project received a Highly Commended in the category of Policy Engagement.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are a hugely popular feature of modern life as they enable users to share content, news and ideas with many others around the world. Unfortunately, these same capabilities allow the spread of ‘digital wildfires’ in which harmful content spreads rapidly online and damages individuals, groups and even entire communities. Digital wildfire events are becoming more and more common; for instance, we are all familiar with malicious campaigns against individuals, hate speech against demographic groups, and worries over the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories online.
Our Digital Wildfire project was a collaboration between Oxford and the Universities of Warwick, Cardiff and De Montfort. It was led by Professor Marina Jirotka and involved HCC member Helena Webb. We conducted various activities to investigate how digital wildfires spread on social media, what kinds of harm they cause, and what actions can be taken to limit or even prevent their damage.