#ExtremeWeather Updates: How Trending Posts Save Lives

Harnessing real-time conversational data from social networking platforms can provide life-saving information amidst extreme weather events.

AsianScientist (Nov. 18, 2021) – Among the throngs of celebrity gossip and recipe inspiration, social media platforms have been a surprising source of real-time information surrounding both natural and man-made disasters. In fact, in the Philippines, relief operations for typhoons are conducted through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

From rising floods to deadly typhoons, experts have long explained that coastal regions in Asia are expected to be hit the worst by climate change and extreme weather events. And as with most events, weather-related or not, tech-savvy communities quickly head to social media before, during and after to talk about what’s happening.

At Twitter, developers realized that such conversations are a treasure trove of real-time social data, capable of being harnessed to provide instant alerts, updates, aid and assessment of the situation on the ground—280 characters at a time.

With access to Twitter data through its public application programming interfaces (APIs), developers can build apps and tools for consumers to draw valuable insights from ongoing posts—providing quick updates and quicker aid response.

Social media offers a wealth of valuable data as users share their experiences during extreme weather events and call for aid after. Photo credit: Twitter.

As extreme weather events devastate communities, social media users have risen to the call and continue to share information in the midst of flooding in Indonesia, typhoons in Japan and even Australian bushfires.

Following these events, Indonesian disaster relief foundation Peta Bencana, worked with Twitter to develop digital tools that display information about disasters in real-time.

In January 2020, Jakarta, Indonesia saw record-breaking rainfall that resulted in flooding across large areas of the city—injuring dozens and displacing thousands. In the first week of the floods, over 20,000 tweets were made about the disaster.

Leveraging this massive amount of social data, Peta Bencana developed a bot that tracks tweets to their account that include keywords like ‘banjir’, the Bahasa Indonesia word for flood.

The bot then automatically responds with instructions on how to share observations that will contribute to a flood map. As flooding reached its peak, the map was accessed over 259,000 times with residents checking the map to avoid flooded areas and make safe decisions.

Similarly, in Japan, Twitter Partner JX Press used the platform’s social data to deliver quick updates and effectively gauge the situation during Typhoon Hagibis, a disaster that resulted in three feet of rain over 24 hours and 74 lives lost in 2019.

With access to real-time data, governments and disaster relief organizations can more effectively listen and speak during emergencies, as well as analyze data to find out how people are being affected.

Useful across extreme weather events and global emergencies like COVID-19, data mined from social media can help authorities monitor situations, perceptions and the evolution of discussions around such events. More importantly, the quicker data is available, the faster updates and aid can help mitigate the damage caused by natural disasters.

“Twitter’s uniquely open service has been used by people all around the world to share and exchange information in times of crisis,” said Kathleen Reen, Senior Director Public Policy and Philanthropy, Asia Pacific at Twitter.

“We recognize our responsibility in ensuring that people can find the information they need especially during a natural disaster, and have worked to amplify credible information from trusted media, government agencies as well as relief and volunteer organizations,” she concluded.


Source: Twitter; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Jill Arul graduated with a degree in Communication Studies from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, with a keen interest for science and a passion for storytelling.

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