How social media can be a valuable tool for guiding public pandemic policy

Social media can be a valuable tool in assisting with COVID-19-related public policy decisions, a team of researchers determined in a new study released in Health Information Science and Systems.

The study, conducted at the Queensland University of Technology, along with researchers in the Middle East and Italy, involved close to 100,000 posts on the social platform Twitter. The posts originated from Australian users and were published during the first few months of 2020, at the start of the global pandemic.

“The pandemic has led to many countries introducing lockdowns and limited citizen movements. These restrictions in turn have triggered an increased use of digital technologies and platforms by the public,” a co-author of the study stated in a news release.

“Our aim was to generate insights into how social media analytics can assist authorities in pandemic-related policy decisions. We chose Australia as our case study because it has been highly successful in flattening the curve and social media analytics are increasingly used by the health sector here.”

What the coalition of researchers concluded was that social media data is valuable for understanding the mindset of the public during a pandemic, like COVID-19.

Additionally, the research team found that social networking sites were effective at getting social distancing policies, travel restrictions, and lockdown orders implemented through the sharing of posts.

“In this digital age, local community perceptions and suggestions about social distancing policies, self-isolation, quarantines, movement control, travel restrictions, lockdowns and other changes are well reflected through social media messages,” the co-authors stated in the news release.

“A thorough analysis of such social media data helps us understand the community demands, issues, and reflections.”

Image courtesy of Christiaan Colen
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