Experts assess power of Twitter
TWITTER and Facebook could be used to help detect outbreaks of disease and other phenomena, researchers at Bristol University claim.
The social network sites provide snapshots of people's lives and boffins at the university have examined whether the power of Twitter and Facebook can be harnessed to predict future events.
Professor Nello Cristianini and Vasileios Lampos at the university conducted the research on Twitter using two case studies – rainfall and the outbreak of flu.
Prof Cristianini said: "Twitter, in particular, encouraged their 200 million users worldwide to make their posts, commonly known as tweets, publicly available as well as tagged with the user's location.
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"This has led to a new wave of experimentation and research using an independent stream of information. Our research has demonstrated a method, by using the content of Twitter, to track an event, when it occurs and the scale of it."
He added that Twitter users do not represent the general population but the study indicated microblogging sites could be used to track an event.