Daniel Thilo Schröder successfully defended his thesis

On January 19, Daniel Thilo Schröder successfully defended his PhD thesis "Explaining News Spreading Phenomena in Social Networks“. 

Main research findings 

On the relatively new media of the internet and specifically in online social networks, digital wildfires, i.e., fast spreading, counterfactual or even intentionally misleading information occur on a regular basis and lead to severe repercussions. 

This work deals with the capture, automatic processing, and investigation of a complex digital wildfire, namely, the Corona and 5G misinformations event - the idea that the COVID-19 outbreak is somehow connected to the introduction of the 5G wireless technology. In this context, we present a system whose application allows us to acquire large amounts of data from the online social network Twitter and thus create the database from which we extract the digital wildfire in its entirety.

The main findings that emerge from the study of the 5G and corona misinformation events can be summarised as follows.

  1. Although published work suggests that a purely structure-based analysis of the information spread allows for early detection, there is no way of predictively labelling spreading information as probably leading to a digital wildfire.
  2. Digital wildfires do not emerge out of nowhere but find their origin in a multitude of already existing ideas and narratives that are reinterpreted and recomposed in the light of a new situation. It does not matter if ideas and explanations contradict each other.
  3. It has been shown that the spread of a digital wildfire is not the result of an information cascade in the sense of single, particularly influential short messages within a single medium.

The work has been conducted at SimulaMet and Technische Universität Berlin. 

The defence was fully digital. 

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Odej Kao, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany 
  • Professor Anis Yazidi, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
  • Research Scientist Johannes Langguth, Simula Research Laboratory, Norway
  • Professor Guilia Boato, University of Trento, Italy 


  • Professor Pål Halvorsen, SimulaMet and Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
  • Research Scientist Johannes Langguth, Simula Research Laboratory, Norway

Chair of defence 

  • Professor Jan Nordholz, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany