skip to main content

Title: Data-driven inferences of agency-level risk and response communication on COVID-19 through social media-based interactions
Risk perception and risk averting behaviors of public agencies in the emergence and spread of COVID-19 can be retrieved through online social media (Twitter), and such interactions can be echoed in other information outlets. This study collected time-sensitive online social media data and analyzed patterns of health risk communication of public health and emergency agencies in the emergence and spread of novel coronavirus using data-driven methods. The major focus is toward understanding how policy-making agencies communicate risk and response information through social media during a pandemic and influence community response—ie, timing of lockdown, timing of reopening, etc.—and disease outbreak indicators—ie, number of confirmed cases and number of deaths. Twitter data of six major public organizations (1,000-4,500 tweets per organization) are collected from February 21, 2020 to June 6, 2020. Several machine learning algorithms, including dynamic topic model and sentiment analysis, are applied over time to identify the topic dynamics over the specific timeline of the pandemic. Organizations emphasized on various topics—eg, importance of wearing face mask, home quarantine, understanding the symptoms, social distancing and contact tracing, emerging community transmission, lack of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and medical supplies, effect of tobacco, pandemic stress management, increasing hospitalization rate, upcoming hurricane season, use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment, maintaining hygiene, and the role of healthcare podcast in different timeline. The findings can benefit emergency management, policymakers, and public health agencies to identify targeted information dissemination policies for public with diverse needs based on how local, federal, and international agencies reacted to COVID-19.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2027360 2219618
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Emergency Management
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Online social networks allow different agencies and the public to interact and share the underlying risks and protective actions during major disasters. This study revealed such crisis communication patterns during Hurricane Laura compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurricane Laura was one of the strongest (Category 4) hurricanes on record to make landfall in Cameron, Louisiana, U.S. Using an application programming interface (API), this study utilizes large-scale social media data obtained from Twitter through the recently released academic track that provides complete and unbiased observations. The data captured publicly available tweets shared by active Twitter users from the vulnerable areas threatened by Hurricane Laura. Online social networks were based on Twitter’s user influence feature (i.e., mentions or tags) that allows notification of other users while posting a tweet. Using network science theories and advanced community detection algorithms, the study split these networks into 21 components of various size, the largest of which contained eight well-defined communities. Several natural language processing techniques (i.e., word clouds, bigrams, topic modeling) were applied to the tweets shared by the users in these communities to observe their risk-taking or risk-averse behavior during a major compounding crisis. Social media accounts of local news media, radio, universities, and popular sports pages were among those which heavily involved and closely interacted with local residents. In contrast, emergency management and planning units in the area engaged less with the public. The findings of this study provide novel insights into the design of efficient social media communication guidelines to respond better in future disasters. 
    more » « less
  2. Background As a number of vaccines for COVID-19 are given emergency use authorization by local health agencies and are being administered in multiple countries, it is crucial to gain public trust in these vaccines to ensure herd immunity through vaccination. One way to gauge public sentiment regarding vaccines for the goal of increasing vaccination rates is by analyzing social media such as Twitter. Objective The goal of this research was to understand public sentiment toward COVID-19 vaccines by analyzing discussions about the vaccines on social media for a period of 60 days when the vaccines were started in the United States. Using the combination of topic detection and sentiment analysis, we identified different types of concerns regarding vaccines that were expressed by different groups of the public on social media. Methods To better understand public sentiment, we collected tweets for exactly 60 days starting from December 16, 2020 that contained hashtags or keywords related to COVID-19 vaccines. We detected and analyzed different topics of discussion of these tweets as well as their emotional content. Vaccine topics were identified by nonnegative matrix factorization, and emotional content was identified using the Valence Aware Dictionary and sEntiment Reasoner sentiment analysis library as well as by using sentence bidirectional encoder representations from transformer embeddings and comparing the embedding to different emotions using cosine similarity. Results After removing all duplicates and retweets, 7,948,886 tweets were collected during the 60-day time period. Topic modeling resulted in 50 topics; of those, we selected 12 topics with the highest volume of tweets for analysis. Administration and access to vaccines were some of the major concerns of the public. Additionally, we classified the tweets in each topic into 1 of the 5 emotions and found fear to be the leading emotion in the tweets, followed by joy. Conclusions This research focused not only on negative emotions that may have led to vaccine hesitancy but also on positive emotions toward the vaccine. By identifying both positive and negative emotions, we were able to identify the public's response to the vaccines overall and to news events related to the vaccines. These results are useful for developing plans for disseminating authoritative health information and for better communication to build understanding and trust. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Background Human movement is one of the forces that drive the spatial spread of infectious diseases. To date, reducing and tracking human movement during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven effective in limiting the spread of the virus. Existing methods for monitoring and modeling the spatial spread of infectious diseases rely on various data sources as proxies of human movement, such as airline travel data, mobile phone data, and banknote tracking. However, intrinsic limitations of these data sources prevent us from systematic monitoring and analyses of human movement on different spatial scales (from local to global). Objective Big data from social media such as geotagged tweets have been widely used in human mobility studies, yet more research is needed to validate the capabilities and limitations of using such data for studying human movement at different geographic scales (eg, from local to global) in the context of global infectious disease transmission. This study aims to develop a novel data-driven public health approach using big data from Twitter coupled with other human mobility data sources and artificial intelligence to monitor and analyze human movement at different spatial scales (from global to regional to local). Methods We will first develop a database with optimized spatiotemporal indexing to store and manage the multisource data sets collected in this project. This database will be connected to our in-house Hadoop computing cluster for efficient big data computing and analytics. We will then develop innovative data models, predictive models, and computing algorithms to effectively extract and analyze human movement patterns using geotagged big data from Twitter and other human mobility data sources, with the goal of enhancing situational awareness and risk prediction in public health emergency response and disease surveillance systems. Results This project was funded as of May 2020. We have started the data collection, processing, and analysis for the project. Conclusions Research findings can help government officials, public health managers, emergency responders, and researchers answer critical questions during the pandemic regarding the current and future infectious risk of a state, county, or community and the effectiveness of social/physical distancing practices in curtailing the spread of the virus. International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID) DERR1-10.2196/24432 
    more » « less
  4. Social media can be a significant tool for transportation and transit agencies providing passengers with real-time information on traffic events. Moreover, COVID-19 and other limitations have compelled the agencies to engage with travelers online to promote public knowledge about COVID-related issues. It is, therefore, important to understand the agencies’ communication patterns. In this original study, the Twitter communication patterns of different transportation actors—types of message, communication sufficiency, consistency, and coordination—were examined using a social media data-driven approach applying text mining techniques and dynamic network analysis. A total of 850,000 tweets from 395 different transportation and transit agencies, starting in 2018 and the periods before, during and after the pandemic, were studied. Transportation agencies (federal, state, and city) were found to be less active on Twitter and mostly discussed safety measures, project management, and so forth. By contrast, the transit agencies (local bus and light, heavy, and commuter rail) were more active on Twitter and shared information about crashes, schedule information, passenger services, and so forth. Moreover, transportation agencies shared minimal pandemic safety information than transit agencies. Dynamic network analysis reveals interaction patterns among different transportation actors that are poorly connected and coordinated among themselves and with different health agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA]). The outcome of this study provides understanding to improve existing communication plans, critical information dissemination efficacy, and the coordination of different transportation actors in general and during unprecedented health crises.

    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    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