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Computer Scientists Use Twitter To Identify Public Health Trends

Two Johns Hopkins University computer scientists have found a way to use Twitter to track public health trends, according to a Johns Hopkins University press release. Mark Dredze, a researcher at the university’s Human Language Technology Center of Excellence, and Michael Paul, a doctoral student, “fed 2 billion public tweets posted between May 2009 and October 2010 into computers, then used software to filter out the 1.5 million messages that referred to health matters.”

“Our goal was to find out whether Twitter posts could be a useful source of public health information,” Dredze said. “We determined that indeed, they could. In some cases, we probably learned some things that even the tweeters’ doctors were not aware of, like which over-the-counter medicines the posters were using to treat their symptoms at home,” he said (7/6).