Brooks coauthors paper on social media use during Ebola outbreak

Ian Brooks
Ian Brooks, Research Scientist

The 2014 Ebola virus epidemic that originated in West Africa and spread to other parts of the globe was the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. During this period, a frightened public turned to social media and internet search engines for information and to share news of the outbreak. According to a team of international researchers, including iSchool Research Scientist Ian Brooks, understanding the social media activity around a health crisis, like the 2014 Ebola outbreak, can help health organizations improve their communication strategies and prevent misinformation and panic.

Their paper, "Fear on the networks: analyzing the 2014 Ebola outbreak," was published in December in Pan American Journal of Public Health (41, 2017). In addition to Brooks, researchers included lead author Marcelo D’Agostino (Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis, Pan American Health Organization), Felipe Mejía (international consultant, Bogotá, Columbia), Myrna Marti and David Novillo-Ortiz (Department of Knowledge Management, Bioethics, and Research, Pan American Health Organization), and Gerardo de Cosio (Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis, Pan American Health Organization).

The research team analyzed Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, and Google trends as well as other internet resources from March-November 2014. They found that in most cases, news agencies have more engagement with the public in social media than do health organizations. In addition, spikes in activity around a topic can be used to signal to health authorities an outbreak may be underway. They concluded that during an outbreak, health organizations need to not only improve their communication strategies but also to make sure that news agencies are using their communications as reporting sources.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

Barbosa and Wang receive Facebook grant to design privacy controls for ad targeting

iSchool PhD student Natã Barbosa and his advisor Associate Professor Yang Wang have received a $65,053 grant from Facebook for their project, "In-Situ Privacy Controls of Profiling and Ad-Targeting." The goal of the project is to design a privacy control framework that makes profiling and ad-targeting more transparent to ordinary Internet users.

Yang Wang

Anderson selected as 2019-2021 iSchool research fellow

Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson has been selected by the iSchool faculty as a research fellow for the 2019-2021 academic years. Research fellows are chosen because their work is relevant to the interests of the School's faculty and students. During the period of their appointments, fellows give at least one public lecture.

Theresa Anderson

Diesner joins Science Advances editorial board

Associate Professor and PhD Program Director Jana Diesner is a new associate editor on the editorial board of Science Advances, the open access multidisciplinary journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The journal supports the AAAS mission by extending the capacity of Science magazine to identify and promote significant advances in science and engineering across a wide range of areas. Science Advances editors not only have stellar reputations in their disciplines but also have acknowledged breadth in recognizing and promoting interdisciplinary collaborations. Diesner brings to this role her expertise in computational social science, human-centered data science, network analysis, natural language processing, machine learning, and responsible computing.

Assistant Professor Jana Diesner

La Barre recognized for diversity work

Associate Professor Kathryn La Barre received an Honorable Mention in the category of Outstanding Faculty/Staff at the 8th annual Diversity and Social Justice Education Awards. The awards recognize undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and student organizations "that have sought to address marginalization, oppression, and/or privilege in their communities." La Barre serves as chair of the iSchool's Diversity Committee.

Kathryn La Barre

#unsettle: The Periphery is Everywhere

Note from interviewee Anita Say Chan: In the weeks since this interview, we’re all encountering a world that is by no means an unforeseen event or disaster attributable to the novel biology of the virus alone, but indeed, a symptom of an already-ailing system decades (or more) in the making. The breathtaking loss and destruction we now see didn't just happen far away, in some abstract "elsewhere," and it didn't happen overnight because of a virus. It advanced gradually, over time, with every mundane decision to ignore precarity either locally or globally, or to exacerbate vulnerability by disinvesting from civic infrastructures and public capacities (and normalizing such divestments), thus feeding what Nancy Fraser has called the "crisis of care" (h/t Lisa Nakamura) that devalues care work–even as the essential nature of nursing, among other disciplines, is made all the more apparent. We are, and have been, in need of a global reset; not as some version of salvation that someone else brings, but as a new terms of being that allows us to recognize the differential agencies we do lend, and have lent, to our own local and worldly contexts, and that we might now work in relationaly if new forms of worldly connection are to emerge.

Anita Say Chan