Research Uncovered—Digital Wildfires: the challenge of provocative content on social media

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Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are hugely popular in modern life and bring many benefits. However they also risk ‘digital wildfires’ in which provocative content in the form of hate speech, misinformation or inflammatory posts etc. spreads rapidly and causes serious harm to individuals, groups and communities.

This talk describes current research on digital wildfires. The research examines how provocative content spreads on social media and the impacts that it has. It also seeks to identify ways to promote the responsible governance of social media – in which the harms caused by digital wildfires are prevented or limited but rights to freedom of speech are also protected.


Helena Webb is a Senior Researcher in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. She works as part of the Human Centred Research group, which examines the inter-relationships between technology and social practices. She has worked on a variety of research projects and is interested in communication, organization and the use of technology in everyday work and interaction. Most recently she has been working on the ‘Digital Wildfire’ project.


Access: If you have a University or Bodleian Reader’s card, you can get to the Centre for Digital Scholarship through the Mackerras Reading Room on the first floor of the Weston Library, around the gallery. If you do not have access to the Weston Library you are more than welcome to attend the talk: please contact Pip Willcox before the event (

You can download a flyer for this talk.


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