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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Computer Science

Abstract

The rapid growth of social media platforms such as Twitter has had a significant impact on the way people can connect and communicate instantaneously with others. The content that users put onto social media platforms can 'go viral' in minutes and that content, whether text, images or links to other sites, can have profound effects on events as they unfold. This can be both for the good or the bad. In times of disaster, tweeting about events can call people to help from around the globe. But people can also spread dubious and dangerous information, hate speech and rumours, via social media. This type of behaviour has been called "digital wildfires". A World Economic Forum report indicates two situations in which digital wildfires are most dangerous: in situations of high tension, when false information or inaccurately presented imagery can cause damage before it is possible to correct it. The real-world equivalent is shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre - even if it takes a moment for realisation to spread that there is no fire, in that time people may already have been crushed to death in the scramble for the exit. Another dangerous situation is when widely circulated information leads to 'groupthink' which may be resistant to attempts to correct it. These digital wildfires can seriously challenge the capacity of traditional media, civil society and government to report accurately and respond to events as they unfold. But how people communicate in these digital social spaces is not well understood; users may not fully understand how these spaces 'work' as channels of communication and so what constitutes appropriate and responsible behaviour may be unclear. The challenge then is to develop appropriate ways of governing these spaces and how to apply and use them responsibly.

This project will attempt to address this challenge by framing the study in a programme of work known as Responsible Innovation in ICT and by developing a methodology for the study and advancement of the responsible governance of social media. A key question is to what extent do people in these spaces 'self-regulate' their behaviour? If this is evident then there is a case for exploring how self-correction mechanisms may be amplified so that false rumours are identified more quickly. The legitimacy of new governance mechanisms may be enhanced if they respect and build on such existing self-governance techniques.

Drawing on a range of methods we will examine how social media are used, how people consume information they find there and what roles they play in its production; how (mis)information flows as they spread in real-time. We will draw on a selection of case studies of rumour and hate speech sourced from our recent and on-going research in social media. From the analyses we will produce a digital tool to detect and visualise rumour, misinformation and antagonistic content and how this relates to self-regulative behaviour such as counter speech, dispelling of rumours and verification practices, so that people are able to make better-informed decisions on how to manage emerging situations in response to real-world events. We will also conduct fieldwork at various sites (police, social media platforms, Google, civil rights organisations, news media) to investigate how stakeholders respond to challenges presented by events where misinformation, rumour and antagonistic content via social media may be a concern, for example, during sporting events, civil disturbance and electoral campaigns. From our analyses the project will develop an ethical security map for the practices of governing the use of social media. We will complement this ethical security map with a range of outputs for broader impact such as, engaging with secondary schools, where we will develop a reflection and training module on digital wildfire for young people - one of the largest age groups actively using social media and also a relatively vulnerable social group.

Planned Impact

The project will have three main categories of beneficiary: (1) UK policy makers who have formal responsibility for developing digital society initiatives; (2) a range of government agencies and those responsible for policy implementation and governance processes, and (3) voluntary sector organisations involved in combating discrimination and promoting social cohesion. Furthermore, the social research community will profit from new methodologies and tools for harnessing the potential of 'big data' for social research. The main activities to realising potential benefits are:
1.The recruitment of non-academic, proactive stakeholders for the project's steering committee.
2. Artwork that promotes a creative understanding of digital wildfires to a broader audience.
3. A 'reflection and training module' to be developed with secondary schools aiming at strengthening young people's ethical use of social media.
4. A workshop advancing interdisciplinary knowledge on 'big data'.
5. The recruitment of a broad range of academic and non-academic stakeholders for four Delphi panels. These participants will be encouraged to promote the research results more widely.
6. A collection of short videos on research results and digital wildfires, accessible via the Internet.
7. A final showcase event.
8. Making accessible all project deliverables, the social data analytics infrastructure and training modules about different computational techniques for analyzing social media (Internet).

Publications


10 25 50
Webb H (2016) Digital wildfires in ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society
Webb H (2016) Digital Wildfires in ACM Transactions on Information Systems
 
Title Digital Wildfire artwork 
Description Digital Wildfire project artist in residence has produced two paintings based on the themes of the project. These were displayed at the project showcase workshop in Jan 2016 as well as at an art event in Poland in September 2016. They are also featured on our project website. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The paintings are intended to creatively disseminate key project themes to a wide audience. The art event received particularly favourable feedback from schools and young people - as described on Barbara Gorayska's website http://barbaragorayska.com/the-act-of-seeing-realities-in-the-making/ and our project website https://sites.google.com/site/digitalwildfireesrc/event-calendar 
URL http://barbaragorayska.com/the-act-of-seeing-realities-in-the-making/
 
Title Keeping Social Media Social 
Description We collaborated with Oxford Sparks and colleagues in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford to produce a short video animation that teaches young people about the use of social media in research. The video describes what we can learn from social media data and how we can use research findings to promote online safety and responsibility. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The video has been widely disseminated to schools and combined with a set of teaching materials. It has been seen over 1000 times on You Tube. It has been displayed on the Computer Science website of the University of Oxford and shown on Big Screen Bristol 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyhsxUh2G8I&t=5s
 
Title Take Care of Your Digital Self 
Description We worked with the digital company Scriberia to produce a short video animation on the safe use of social media. This is targeted at young people, especially those aged 11 to 14 i.e., those most vulnerable to harm from social media. The video is hosted on our project You Tube channel and forms part of our teaching and learning materials. It was widely disseminated was on Safer Internet Day 2016 and 2017. It has also been displayed on the websites of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and Cardiff University. We have shown the video at teach meet events and outreach sessions at the University of Oxford. . 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact We have received very positive feedback about the animation - in particular from schools, who have used it in their e-safety lessons. The video has also proved popular with older audiences and was displayed on the IT Security website of University College Dublin as part of an online privacy campaign. The video has been viewed over 1460 times on You Tube. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nXaEctiVhs
 
Description The achievements generated by this project can be grouped into 4 key areas:

1. Substantive findings about the spread of harmful content on social media and its consequences
The results of our examination of social media content (WP2), Delphi panel survey (WP3) and fieldwork (WP4), combined with other activities such as our youth panels have produced novel substantive findings regarding the scale and breadth of the 'problem' of harmful content on social media. We have identified:
a) the different kinds of social media content that can have negative effects on individuals, groups and entire communities, in particular when spreading rapidly;
b) the wide range of agencies now required to deal with this kind of content;
c) the challenges these agencies face - for instance due to lack of capacity to deal with the volume of social media content and limitations in current governance mechanisms.

2. Empirically and conceptually driven recommendations for the responsible governance of social media
In WP1 we examined the potential governance of Digital Wildfires in relation to competing traditions of ethics and extant regulatory mechanisms. This informed our empirical work in WPs 2,3 and 4. In combination we have identified key limitations in existing governance mechanisms on social media. Legal, social media platform and institutional (e.g. restrictions on social media content set out by employers etc.) governance mechanisms all tend to be retrospective in character, dealing with content after it has spread and caused harm. They also tend to focus on individual posts and users, rather than the large numbers of posts and users associated with a digital wildfire. By contrast user self-governance (in which individuals monitor their own online behaviours and the behaviours of others) and education/training each have the capacity to proactively prevent the posting and spread of harmful content without limiting freedom of speech.

3. Development of methodological techniques to examine social media content
In WP2 we combined qualitative and quantitative methods to examine conversational 'threads' on Twitter. In our qualitative analysis we drew on interactional approaches typically used in studies of face to face conversation to analyse the communicative actions that occur when Twitter users post and respond to each other. This analysis produced novel and substantive findings, and also formed a foundation for further quantitative analysis. This involved building a classifier tool based on human coded Twitter threads and modelling the impact of user self-governance (in the form of counter speech) on conversations beginning with a hateful post.

4. Stakeholder engagement and impact
Early in the project we identified a genuine and pressing interest among stakeholders of various kinds to 1) make their voices heard in current debates around social media and 2) be informed by research findings on best practice for social media governance. We have therefore dedicated much of our project time to meeting these interests - for instance through the conduct of our Showcase workshop, youth panels and the development of our online toolkit in WP5. This is described further in our Narrative Impact statement.
Exploitation Route Our findings are being taken forward in the following ways: 3 published papers, 4 papers currently under review and further papers planned; we have been presenting the findings to key academic and non-academic audiences; the conclusions of the study are being put into the ethical security map - we have broadened the scope of this may to provide an online resource for stakeholders dealing with social media content in various ways; we have produced various teaching and learning materials for schools and your people - also to be used in internet campaigns such as safer internet day; Marina Jirotka gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications for their inquiry into Children and the Internet - she reported on the findings from Digital Wildfire and the committee found them so pertinent that she was appointed Specialist Advisor to the ongoing inquiry; the findings are currently being used in an ESRC Impact Acceleration account project led by Rob Procter (co-pi) at Warwick; the findings of the project fed into a successful proposal to EPSRC - UnBias - Emancipating Users against Algorithmic Biases for a Trusted Digital Economy and are being used as the basis for further projects.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
URL http://www.digitalwildfire.org
 
Description The project has produced meaningful impact in a number of areas. Our impact strategy was guided by our original project bid, advice from our project Steering Committee and our emerging study findings. We have evaluated the success of our impact activities through feedback from relevant audiences, quantitative measures (viewing figures for our You Tube videos etc.), input from our Steering Committee and team reflection. We engage with the general public through our website, You Tube channel, Twitter account and articles in online newspapers such as The Conversation, engagement blogs and University publications such as Inspired Research at the University of Oxford. Project members have also appeared on television and one has given a TedX talk. Project artist in residence Barbara Gorayska has produced two paintings which bring a creative understanding of social media to wide audiences. These paintings can be viewed online and have were also displayed at our Showcase workshop and a special art event. Early in the project we discovered the great extent to which young people are vulnerable on social media and uncovered a great desire amongst educationalists for appropriate resources to promote digital maturity and responsibility. Subsequently we dedicated much of our impact strategy to engaging with schools, youth groups and young people. We ran two youth highly successful youth panel competitions - involving 10 different schools/youth groups and around 150 young people - in which were designed to encourage teenagers to think about the safe use of social media in a fun and constructive way. We prepared two sets of teaching and learning materials - one for teenagers aged 11 to 15 and one for those aged 16+. These were launched to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2016 and we received requests from over 30 schools to receive copies of the materials. The materials have now been made available on tes.com for free download. We have also produced two video animations aimed at young people #TakeCareOfYourDigitalSelf and Keeping Social Media Social. These are both available on You Tube (where each has been viewed over 1000 times) and have been disseminated via Twitter, the project website and the website of our consortium universities. Throughout the project we have also discussed the project at various outreach events with young people (such a Women in Computer Science day and the University of Oxford and a symposium on computer ethics at Queen Mary's school in Reading) and with teachers at education events held at the Universities of Oxford and Cardiff. The project will also make a strong contribution to policy in relation to young people's use of digital technologies. In 2016 project PI Marina Jirotka gave evidence to an inquiry run by the House of Lords Select Committee on Children and the Internet. The inquiry seeks to assess the risks that young people face online, the effectiveness of current mechanisms designed to protect them and whether further mechanisms are needed. Professor Jirotka was subsequently appointed as a specialist advisor to the inquiry and is assisting with the production of the Committee' report, which will be debated in parliament in 2017. We have drawn on our project themes and findings to engage stakeholders in debates around the spread of harmful content on social media and the responsible governance of digital social spaces. These stakeholders include social media users, educators, young people, policy makers, police and law enforcement agencies, charities and anti-harassment organisations, students and other researchers. We provided these groups with opportunities to voice their views and promote inclusive debate. We also promoted broad understandings of social media governance in policy and public discourse. Specific activities include: 1) Our project Steering Committee. This included academics and members from the Greater Manchester Police, Big Brother Watch, Kick it Out, the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Whitchurch School, Cardiff. Members advised on the direction of the project and disseminated our work within their own fields. 2) Delphi panel. We ran a Delphi panel in workpackage 3 to solicit the informed views of key experts on the appropriate governance of social media. The Delphi provided opportunities for these panellists to (anonymously) exchange views and attempt to reach consensus. Their views were then disseminated through our project work. 3) Our project showcase workshop in January 2016 brought together researchers and stakeholders from law, commerce, education, policy, law enforcement and equality/anti-harassment organisations. This event successfully encouraged the productive sharing of views, established new engagement networks and consolidated existing ones. 4) We have scaled up plans for workpackage 5 in the project and are currently preparing an online resource that will help relevant professionals in their decision making about social media. This 'ethics toolkit' will be available online and will be targeted towards fields such as law enforcement, education, (local) government, and civil society. The map will draw on our project findings and scenarios of social media controversies in order to help users reflect on different governance options in relation to tackling the spread of harmful content across digital networks. We have undertaken capacity building activities involving students and other researchers. We have run mini projects based on Digital Wildfires for students at the University of Oxford, given student seminars at the Universities of Oxford, Cardiff and Nottingham and spoken about the project at outreach events designed to encourage young people from non-academic backgrounds to think about issues relating to digital technologies. We have published articles, presented at conferences and spoken at various research workshops. We have built up strong collaborations with other research groups such as CaSMa, University of Nottingham, which has led to a successful funding bid for a joint project. These various activities have served to inform and inspire the public. They have also benefitted the study by ensuring we incorporate the perspectives of different groups. The legacy of the project will be ensured through the long term availability of some of our outputs - such as the online ethics toolkit and the videos on our You Tube channel. It will also be ensured through our influence on policy debates; by providing a means for stakeholders to share their views we have encouraged inclusive debate that draws discussion of social media governance away from a narrow focus on legislation to a broader one that identifies different kinds of governance mechanisms that could interweave to limit the spread of provocative content on social media without limiting freedom of speech. Our legacy will also be established through our capacity building activities that contribute to initiatives that widen participation and develop skill sets amongst key groups.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services
 
Description Provision of evidence to and specialist advisor role in the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Inquiry into Children and the Internet. Professor Marina Jirotka was called to give evidence to this inquiry and was subsequently appointed as a specialist advisor to it. A report from the inquiry is currently under preparation and will be debated in parliament. The scope of the inquiry is 'The Committee is conducting an inquiry into children's access to, and use of, the internet. It aims to investigate the risks and as well as the benefits. The Committee will also investigate how children's use of the internet is governed and regulated, examining the roles that parents, schools, media companies and regulators should all play.'
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL http://www.parliament.uk/children-and-the-internet
 
Description Co-producing Understandings of Digital Responsibility: 'Digital Wildfires', Social Media and Responsible Citizenship
Amount £9,997 (GBP)
Organisation British Academy 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2017
 
Description University of Oxford Public Engagement with Research (PER) Seed Fund
Amount £1,690 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2016 
End 08/2016
 
Description Warwick Social Science Impact Fund (ESRC Impact Acceleration Fund)
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/M500434/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2016 
End 08/2017
 
Description Digital Wildfire and CaSMa collaboration 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project team (led by the University of Oxford) have established strong links with the CaSMa group at the University of Nottingham. This has led to shared workshops and the joint preparation of a showcase workshop on Jan 12 2016. We have also collaborated on a successful funding bid (see below) joint funding bid and members of the CaSMa team helped to judge our youth panel entries.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners contributed to the planning of the Jan 2016 showcase workshop and paid half the cost. This has led to shared workshops and the joint preparation of a showcase workshop on Jan 12 2016. We have also collaborated on a joint funding bid and members of the CaSMa team helped to judge our youth panel entries. UnBias: Emancipating users against algorithmic biases for a trusted digital economy. EPSRC funded research project (Ref EP/NO2785X/1) led by the University of Nottingham in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh. This is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving social science and computer science
Impact Showcase workshop: Digital Wildfires - respond now at the Digital Catapult! UnBias: Emancipating users against algorithmic biases for a trusted digital economy. EPSRC funded research project (Ref EP/NO2785X/1) Digital Wildfire youth panel - What makes a good digital citizen on social media? This collaboration involves social science, computer science and psychology.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Proboscis 
Organisation Proboscis
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Proboscis is a creative art practice that collaborates with research groups to produce materials that help to solve problems for different kinds of users. The Digital Wildfire team has has several beneficial meetings with Probosics members - in particular founder Giles Lane. These discussions have helped Proboscis generate ideas for their work.
Collaborator Contribution Our meetings with Giles Lane have helped us to build ideas for meaningful ouptuts we can create from the project. For instance Giles has helped us to think through an effective format for our WP5 ethical security map, which has led to us widening the scope of the resource. Giles was also a member of the judging panel on our second youth panel competition - How can young people stay safe on social media?
Impact Digital Wildfire youth panel competition - How can young people stay safe on social media? Giles Lane is also a consultant on a project that follows on from some of the work of Digital Wildfire: UnBias: Emancipating Users from Algorithmic Biases for a Trusted Digital Economy EPSRC EP/N02785X/1
Start Year 2015
 
Description 'Digital Wildfires': a challenge to the governance of social media? WebSci 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team attended the WebSci2015 conference and presented a poster based on some initial project findings. Marina Jirotka also participated in a panel session on ethical web science. This is an international conference attended by over 200 researchers, professionals and policy makers from across the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://websci15.org/accepted-submissions
 
Description Article in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We were invited to submit an article on the project to The Conversation. This was disseminated widely and led to a large amount of interest in the project. We received a number of follow up contacts from it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://theconversation.com/how-to-police-digital-wildfires-on-social-media-63220
 
Description Article on EmergencyJournalism.net 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We were invited to post an article about the project on EmergencyJournalism.net - an initiative of the European Journalism Centre that promotes the use of digital tools to promote responsible journalism in emergency situations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://emergencyjournalism.net/3-ways-to-stop-false-news-spreading-like-wildfires/
 
Description Citizens Online workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Project member Adam Edwards gave a presentation on the Digital Wildfire project at the Citizens Online workshop in February 2016 in London.

The event was funded by the ESRC Integrator for Ethics and Rights in a Security Context and organised by the Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group at Warwick University. The workshop brought together researchers to discuss these central questions:
- A significant amount of online activity involves anti-social, offensive, or harmful behaviour, involving rumours, insults, or outright defamation. How can governance of conduct in digital social spaces be realised in a way that is both ethical and effective in practice? How far is this a matter for full-blown government involvement?
- It is often said that functioning democratic systems require some collective commitment or identity on the part of citizens. Information technology increasingly facilitates the formation of trans-national communities. What challenges does this technological trend pose to the way that we traditionally conceive of citizenship and statehood? If the 'common good' is one of our aims, how do we delineate membership of the relevant group(s)? Are governance structures keeping up?
- What counts as private is partly conventional and cultural, and internet culture is in flux. Given the arc of technological development, is there any future for privacy online? What special consideration ought we to give to political speech and activism? How do attitudes to privacy and democracy interact with new security measures and technologies?

The workshop was attended by around 20 people and streamed online. Over 100 peopled viewed footage of the event in the week after it was posted.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/ierg/multimedia
 
Description Digital Wildfire TedX 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project team member Rob Procter gave a TedX talk about social media and the Digital Wildfire project in February 2016. The talk was attended by over 100 members of the public and video footage will be posted online in due course.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.tedxmanchester.com/speakers/rob-procter
 
Description Digital Wildfire You Tube Channel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have set up a You Tube Channel to host various videos relating to the project. This includes footage of our Jan 12th Showcase workshop, the #TakeCareOfYourDigitalSelf animation, an video based on our youth panel work and mini interviews with different stakeholders. The channel is advertised over our dissemination networks and the videos in it were accessed over 700 times in its first two months. We have received positive feedback from viewers - in particular teachers at schools - on the usefulness of the videos in prompting discussion about social media governance and e-safety.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGspO-4WN_VlF5hyh7vp28Q
 
Description Digital Wildfire schools outreach activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Project member Helena Webb has given various talks on Digital Wildfire to school groups as part of the University of Oxford's outreach programme. Groups from across the country have had the opportunity to learn about the project and engage with some of its core themes. This has raised discussion and debate as well as requests for further information about the project. These are regular activities; so far around 200 students have been addressed from schools around the country.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Digital Wildfire teaching and learning materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact To coincide with Safer Internet Day 2016 we prepared a set of e-safety teaching and learning materials. These were designed to promote digital resilience and maturity amongst young people and were made available to secondary schools across the country. The materials consisted lesson plans and assembly plans for students aged 11 to 14 and 14+. We received requests from over 30 schools to receive copies of the materials.

In summer 2016 we posted the materials on tes.com where they are available for free download. https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/digital-wildfire-digital-citizenship-and-social-media-resource-pack-ks4-5-11313686 and https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/digital-wildfire-e-safety-and-social-media-resource-pack-ks3-11313658

We have received consistently favourable feedback from schools who have used the materials - with teachers telling us they are helpful in providing resources to promote e-safety and critical thinking about the use of social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/digital-wildfire-e-safety-and-social-media-resource-pack-ks3-1...
 
Description Digital Wildfire: Inspired Research article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We published an article outlining the project aims and activities in 'Inspired Research' . This is the regular outreach magazine produced by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/innovation/inspiredresearch/IRwinter2015.pdf
 
Description Digital Wildfires: respond now at the Digital Catapult! Showcase workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our showcase workshop was held on Jan 12 2015. It brought together around 70 researchers and key stakeholders to foster debate around important questions arising from the prevalence of digital wildfires in modern life
- How can we understand social media content and its impacts?
- How can we gather and use social media data in a responsible manner?
- Which organisations, groups and individuals are responsible for managing the spread of provocative content?
- How can we balance out concerns over the harms caused by social media posts with rights to freedom of speech?
The one day event was attended by representatives from academia, government, law enforcement, online platforms, commerce, education and civil society. It involved speaker presentations, a discussion roundtable, a youth panel and a keynote address by Baroness Beeban Kidron, founder of the iRights campaign for children and young people.

Around 70 people attended the day and we received very positive feedback - especially stating that the event raised important debates and brought together different relevant stakeholders. Over 70 people attended and more have had an opportunity to watch some of the presentations on our Digital Wildfire project You Tube channel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/blog/digital-wildfire
 
Description ETHICOMP 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team attended the ETHICOMP 2015 conference and presented some of the initial study findings. This is an international conference attended by researchers, policy makers and professionals from around the world. The presentation abstract states:

The last 5-10 years have seen a massive rise in the popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc. These platforms enable users to post and share their own content instantly, meaning that material can be seen by multiple others in a short period of time. The growing use of social media has been accompanied by concerns that these platforms enable the rapid and global spread of harmful content. A report by the World Economic Forum puts forward the global risk factor of 'digital wildfires' - social media events in which provocative content spreads rapidly and broadly, causing significant harm. This provocative content may take the form of rumour, hate speech or inflammatory messages etc. and the harms caused may affect individuals, groups, organisations or populations. In this paper we draw on the World Economic Forum report to ask a central question: does the risk of digital wildfires necessitate new forms of social media governance? We discuss the results of a scoping exercise that examined this central question. Focusing on the UK context, we present short case studies of digital wildfire scenarios



and describe four key mechanisms that currently govern social media content. As these mechanisms tend to be retrospective and individual in focus, it is possible that further governance practices could be introduced to deal with the propagation of content proactively and as a form of collective behaviour. However ethical concerns arise over any restrictions to freedom of speech brought about by further governance. Empirical investigation of social media practices and perspectives is needed before it is possible to determine whether new governance practices are necessary or ethically justifiable
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.dmu.ac.uk/documents/research-documents/technology/ccsr/ethicomp-2015-programme-september....
 
Description Ethics in networked engineering workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Helena Webb talked about the Digital Wildfire project at a workshop on 'Ethics and Engineering' held as part of the Oxford Internet Institute's Ethics in Networked Systems research project. This was attended by around 30 researchers from the UK, Europe and the USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://ensr.oii.ox.ac.uk/2015/03/09/gtc-ethics-in-internet-engineering-participative-workshop-at-5-3...
 
Description School visit (Reading) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In November 2016 Marina Jirotka and Helena Webb took part in a schools symposium on computer ethics. They talked about the project in relation to the theme of not causing harm when using computers. The symposium was attended by 80 students aged 16+ from local schools in Reading. The students and teachers were highly engaged in constructive debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://cybersymposium.weebly.com/
 
Description Science and Security: Governance, Ethics and the Law A PaCCS Science and Security Policy Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Organised by Tristram Riley-Smith of the Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research, on behalf of Dstl this workshop explored the ethical and legal challenges facing policy-makers and practitioners working in the defence and security sectors as they manage the development and application of new technological capabilities. The starting-point was the "Science and Security" Programme. It specifically looked at research on three topics: Social Media, Drones and Data Collection and Exploitation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.paccsresearch.org.uk/research/research-portfolio/science-and-security/).
 
Description Social Media and Civil Society: Participation, Regulation and Governance: WISERD panel 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team ran a panel on Social Media and Civil Society: Participation, Regulation and Governance at the 2015 WISERD conference.

The abstract is as follows:

Technological innovation in digital communications, epitomised in the shift from the informational web
(Web1.0) to the interactional web (Web2.0), is transforming traditional social configurations and relations.
Web2.0 technologies, particularly the new social media (e.g. social networking, blogging and microblogging),
enable users to share information with multiple others quickly and easily. This can be seen to
reinvigorate civil society via new forms of digital participation through networked debate, deliberation and
information sharing. This can have positive impacts, for instance promoting social cohesion and supporting
civil society actions. However, social media interactions can also become 'digital wildfires' in which
misleading or provocative content - e.g., in the form of rumour or hate speech - spreads rapidly with very
negative impact. Society thus faces a major challenge in establishing appropriate regulatory frameworks
for the governance of new digital spaces. This panel will discuss the development of these governance
frameworks. We will reflect upon current research on how 'digital wildfire events' emerge and unfold. We
will explore the evidence for self-governance through which social media users manage their own and
others' online behaviours and examine how these practices may be consolidated and enhanced. Finally,
we will consider matters relating to wider issues of governance, regulation and freedom of expression.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.wiserd.ac.uk/files/5314/3530/8346/Abstract_Booklet_.pdf
 
Description Social media television debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Project member Bernd Stahl took part in a discussion panel on Facebook censorship on Al Jazeera television.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcChvUmVuWc
 
Description Social media, Activism and Organisation 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team presented study findings at the Social media, Activism and Organisation symposium in November 2015. This was a 1 day event attended by researchers and PG students. We were subsequently invited to submit a full paper for a special issue of Sociological Review based on the themes of the symposium. This was submitted in Feb 2016 and is undergoing reviews.

The abstract states:

The increasing use and popularity of social media platforms creates new digital social networks in which individuals can interact and share information, news and opinion. The use of these technologies appears to have the capacity to transform current social configurations and relations, not least within the public and civic spheres. Within the social sciences, much emphasis has been placed on conceptualising social media's role in modern society, and the interrelationships between online and offline actors and events. In contrast, little attention has been paid to exploring user practices on social media and how individual posts respond to each other. To demonstrate the value of an interactional approach towards social media analysis, we performed a detailed analysis of Twitter-based online campaigns. After categorising social media posts based on action, we developed a typology for studying user exchanges. We found these social media campaigns to be highly heterogeneous in content, with a wide range of actions performed and substantial numbers of tweets not engaged with the substance of the campaign. We argue that this interactional approach to analysis can form the basis for further work conceptualising the broader impact of activist campaigns.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.social--media.org/programme/
 
Description Undergraduate student group projects (Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact In 2016 Marina Jirotka and Helena Webb joined colleagues in the Department of Computer Science at Oxford to sponsor two teams of undergraduate students to work on a group project about social media. Their task was to build a prototype system that could identify and analyse fast spreading content on social media. This was a valuable opportunity for the groups to think about the kinds of professional users who would benefit from this kind if information about social media content.

In 2017 we are sponsoring another group of undergraduates to build a system to identify and analyse fake content on social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNzG7q1tkBw
 
Description Workshop presentation (Ethics and Rights in a Security Context) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In November 2016 Marina Jirotka presented the major findings of the Digital Wildfire project at the 'Ethics and Rights in a Security Context' workshop held in London and organised by the Interdisciplinary Research Group at the University of Warwick. The event was attended by academics, policy makers, members of industry and members of NGOs. The presentation generated a significant amount of debate over the responsible governance of social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/ierg/events/ethics__rights_in_a_secu...
 
Description Youth panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We invited a small number of schools and youth groups across the country to take part in our youth panel. Young people aged 16-18 were invited to submit pieces of work that answered the question: what makes a good digital citizen on social media? We received essays, poems, artwork, narratives, research and videos. A judging panel selected the top 5 entries and the students who produced them attended our workshop in Jan 2016 to talk about their work and receive a £100 prize voucher.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
URL https://sites.google.com/site/digitalwildfireesrc/youth-panel
 
Description Youth panel 2: How can young people stay safe on social media? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Following the success of our first youth panel competition, we have several requests from schools to run another one. We secured funding from the University of Oxford's Public Engagement in Research Seed Fund and ran a competition inviting entries from school children aged 11 to 15. In groups or as individuals the students created a piece of work to answer the question 'how can young people stay safe on social media?'. We received over 100 impressive entries which were first marked be members of the project team. A panel of specialist judges from organisations connected to the project (police, Kick It out etc.) selected the winning entries from a short list. They selected 10 winners and 4 runners up from two age groups. The winners received a prize voucher and their work is shown - with their consent - on our project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://sites.google.com/site/digitalwildfireesrc/youth-panel