Use case: Corona crisis in Syria

Use case: Corona crisis in Syria

This use case demonstrates some of the capabilities of SAIL LABS Media Mining System, illustrating the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

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Some key benefits of SAIL LABS Media Mining System for pandemic outbreaks

  • Allows continuous assessment of media coverage and public opinion in real time.
  • Suitable for monitoring punctual and permanent health promotion campaigns.
  • Sentiment Analysis of traditional and social media regarding the perceived impact of a disease and government action.
  • Event-based surveillance.
  • Rapid data collection for fast decisions.
  • Timely reporting mechanisms.
  • Social media intelligence.
  • Enables to extract data from text or audiovisual sources in languages that the users do not speak thanks to automatic speech recognition and machine translation covering 32 languages.
  • Enables situational awareness and situational understanding.

Coronavirus in Syria – Insights obtained from social media activity

In this use case, the system was used to gain situation awareness on stories in social media related to coronavirus and Syria. As it is expected that the corona crisis might enhance the migration movement of people in the region, OSINT can be used to better understand the issue and have an additional sensor into the area.

The Heat Map at Figure 1 demonstrates the volume of social media mentions on coronavirus in Arabic, featuring the direct coordinates (coordinates available from posts directly if GPS information is available) and the detected locations (locations detected in the text, corresponding to Syria).

Syria confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on the 22nd of March (source: Syrian Arab News Agency) and reported so far 16 cases and 2 deaths (source: John Hopkins). The actual number of cases in Syria is likely higher than the official number, especially considering its proximity to Iran, which faces a massive viral outbreak.

Syria is challenged by a unique scenario, as the war has left Syria’s infrastructure in disarray, making even simple tasks like washing hands impossible for many (source: Axios, Aljazeera).

However, activity in the media about the corona crisis in Syria is affected by threats of the local government (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Source: SAIL LABS Media Mining System, Heat Map (20.03-01.04).

Figure 2. Source: Facebook, Syrian Ministry of Interior informing that “everyone who publishes false and fabricated news on the pages of social media sites will raise fear and terror among the citizens, and will be prosecuted and be taken care with the necessary legal measures against them.”

Moreover many Syrians are living in shelters and refugee camps that offer little room for social distancing or isolation (source: Axios, UNHCR).

Information on the confirmed number of cases remains uncertain. For instance, on the 22.03 at 12:14, Sham FM announced the first confirmed case in Syria. A few hours later, at 14:14, the profile Syria Educational informed that the case was already under recovery (Figure 3).

Another example of social media activity can be seen on Figure 4. The profile @arabic_post quotes local activists in Damascus, referring to a video of a man lying on the street, who is suspected to be infected with corona: “at a time when Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues to say that the Syrian territories have not recorded any infection with the virus.”

Figure 3. Source: Facebook.

Figure 4. Source: Facebook.

When we analyse the events which were most mentioned in social media in the context of Syria from 20.03 to 01.04, it is possible to note that the epidemic outbreak received three times the amount of attention in social media (30%, Figure 5) than in traditional media (10%, Figure 6). 

 Figure 5. Source: Media Mining System – Dashboard.

Casualties were the most frequent topic in traditional media (23%), followed by pandemic. The second most frequent topic in social media was migration, whereas in traditional media this comes in 7th place (6%).

Figure 6. Source: Media Mining System – Dashboard.

Figure 7. Source: SAIL LABS Media Mining System – Trend Graph.

Therefore, the analysis of the intense activity in social media regarding Syria and coronavirus also leads us to spot other issues arising in this context, for instance, the matter of migration. Being aware of the different topics which are covered by traditional and social media allows analysts to expand situation awareness. Additionally, once an event is spotted as a trend, different other widgets from the system can be used to dig into data to achieve more detailed information and properly aid more comprehensive risk assessments.

For instance, the Trend Graph widget (Figure 7) provides more detailed insights on topics of interest and allows the analyst to investigate connections between facts. 

In this example the variation on the number of mentions about Syria (red dots) and migration (green dots) in the context of coronavirus, in traditional and social media.  It is important to note that the first officially confirmed case in Syria occurred on the 22nd of March and the peak of mentions on migration occurred four days before (18.03).

In conclusion, the Media Mining System is suitable as an early warning mechanism, to better evaluate stories in traditional and social media related to displacement movements, in the context of the current corona crisis.

Request the Complete Coronavirus Report

This use case is a sample obtained from a 54 pages long report on the corona crisis in 20 countries around the globe. To request the complete report, please contact us in the form below.