Social Media in Crises

A key aspect of dealing with the aftermath of disasters and critical events is to get a quick understanding of the situation. This enables crisis responders to assess the gravity of the situation and the needs of the affected community, as well as the operational circumstances and the availability of resources. Disasters tend to be chaotic, and it can be hard to get a coherent picture, so we need tools to sift through the maelstrom of messages to find out which ones are useful and informative, and what needs are most critical and urgent. We are researching how text mining technologies can help communities to be more resistant to disasters, aiming to optimally share information so that critical help can be provided at the right time and in the right place.

As part of the COMRADES project, we have built a platform to filter messages from citizens as they arrive from social media and SMS messages, identifying those which are most relevant and informative. The open-source GATE toolkit for text processing is used to automatically analyse messages for all kinds of diverse information, developing ways to filter and analyse the messages during a crisis and in its aftermath. Some of the ways in which we analyse language for this are described here.

The video interview below, part of the SAGE Publishing Research Methods series, gives more insight into our work  on social media analysis for disaster relief, as well as more generally about GATE, social media analysis and NLP.

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