Digital Wildfire: (Mis)information flows, propagation and responsible governance

Uploaded by Helena Webb on 05 September 2016
Last modified on 18 November 2016



From 18/11/2014 to 17/11/2016
This project is concerned with interactions on social media platforms - such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr etc. - and their offline consequences. Open digital communication platforms enable users to share information with multiple others quickly and easily. This can sometimes promote social cohesion and support civil society actions – as seen for instance in the spread of solidarity messages and the clean-up effort following the 2011 riots in England. However social media interactions can also become ‘digital wildfires’ in which misleading or provocative content spreads rapidly with very negative impact. For instance the spread of false rumours can amplify social antagonism and conflict and online hate speech can spread rapidly and have highly detrimental offline consequences for those that receive it. Society thus faces a major challenge in establishing appropriate regulatory frameworks for the governance of new digital spaces.

Our project will contribute to the development of these governance frameworks.

We will: 

  • analyse and interpret information flows on social media platforms to assess how digital wildfire events emerge and unfold.
  • identify forms of self-governance through which social media users manage their own and others’ online behaviours and examine how these practices may be consolidated and enhanced.
  • conduct various other activities to engage the experiences and perspectives of key social media and governance stakeholders.
  • explore potential regulatory tools and mechanisms in digital social spaces.
  • produce resources that help users of different kinds to navigate through social meida practice and policy. 


  • University of Oxford
  • Cardiff University
  • University of Warwick
  • De Montfort University 


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