Study Finds Support for India During COVID-19 Surge

Research identified tweets from Pakistan supportive of India during crisis

India and Pakistan have fought four wars in the past few decades, but when India faced an oxygen shortage in its hospitals during its recent COVID-19 surge, Pakistan offered to help.

On Twitter, hashtags like #IndiaNeedsOxygen and #PakistanStandsWithIndia trended. Finding these positive tweets, however, was not as easy as simply browsing the supportive hashtags or looking at the most popular posts. Negative tweets often hijack the supportive hashtags for trolling or fighting with other users. And Twitter’s algorithm isn’t tuned to surface the most positive tweets during a crisis.

Ashique KhudaBukhsh of Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI) led a team of researchers who used machine learning to identify supportive tweets from Pakistan during India’s COVID-19 crisis. In the throes of a public health crisis, words of hope can be welcome medicine.

“When a country is experiencing a national health crisis, the more supportive messages you see, the better,” KhudaBukhsh said. “If you’re just randomly searching, you’ll find positive tweets about 44% of the time. Our method gives a person positive tweets 83% of the time. That person will have to do a lot less work to find the supportive tweets.”

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