Health Life

Social media can guide public pandemic policy: research

Led by Associate Professor Tan Yigitcanlar from QUT’s School of Built Environment, and in collaboration with researchers in Afghanistan, Iran and Italy, the researchers collected 96,666 geotagged tweets originating from Australia between 1 January and 4 May 2020, and analyzed 35,969 of them after data cleaning to remove automated messages, irrelevant messages and web links. Credit: QUT

With 2020 hijacked by COVID-19, a team of QUT researchers in Brisbane, Australia, say social media analytics can capture the attitudes and perceptions of the public during a pandemic. They also suggest social media is now the best way to encourage people to follow measures and restrictions.

Led by Associate Professor Tan Yigitcanlar from QUT’s School of Built Environment, and in collaboration with researchers in Afghanistan, Iran and Italy, the researchers collected 96,666 geotagged tweets originating from Australia between 1 January and 4 May 2020, and analyzed 35,969 of them after data cleaning to remove automated messages, irrelevant messages and web links.

The resultant paper—How can social media analytics assist authorities in -related policy decisions? Insights from Australian states and territories—has been published by Springer journal Health Information Science and Systems.

“From the Plague of Athens in 430 B.C., to the Black Death of the 1300s, through to the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 and the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009, pandemics are not new. However, increased globalization since the 1980s has accelerated their spread, as we have seen this year with COVID-19,” said Professor Yigitcanlar.

“What started late last year in Wuhan, China was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March. Global cases are heading towards 50 million and there have been more than 1.2 million deaths so far.

“The pandemic has led to many countries introducing lockdowns and limited citizen movements. These restrictions in turn have triggered