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Title: Examining risk and crisis communications of government agencies and stakeholders during early stages of COVID-19 on Twitter
During COVID-19, social media has played an important role for public health agencies and government stakeholders (i.e. actors) to disseminate information regarding situations, risks, and personal protective action inhibiting disease spread. However, there have been notable insufficient, incongruent, and inconsistent communications regarding the pandemic and its risks, which was especially salient at the early stages of the outbreak. Sufficiency, congruence and consistency in health risk communication have important implications for effective health safety instruction as well as critical content interpretability and recall. It also impacts individual- and community-level responses to information. This research employs text mining techniques and dynamic network analysis to investigate the actors’ risk and crisis communication on Twitter regarding message types, communication sufficiency, timeliness, congruence, consistency and coordination. We studied 13,598 pandemic-relevant tweets posted over January to April from 67 federal and state-level agencies and stakeholders in the U.S. The study annotates 16 categories of message types, analyzes their appearances and evolutions. The research then identifies inconsistencies and incongruencies on four critical topics and examines spatial disparities, timeliness, and sufficiency across actors and message types in communicating COVID-19. The network analysis also reveals increased communication coordination over time. The findings provide unprecedented insight of Twitter COVID-19 information dissemination which may help to inform public health agencies and governmental stakeholders future risk and crisis communication strategies related to global hazards in digital environments.  more » « less
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Computers in human behavior
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National Science Foundation
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