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Moral Panic through the Lens of Twitter: An Analysis of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wasim Ahmed



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by Association for Computing Machinery, 2018.

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This paper presents an in-depth qualitative analysis of n=13,373 tweets that relate to the peak of the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009, and the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Tweets were analysed using thematic analysis and a number of themes and sub-themes were identified. The results were brought together in an abstraction phase and the commonalities between the cases were studied. An interesting similarity which emerged was the rate at which Twitter users expressed intense fear and panic akin to that of the sociological concept of “moral panic”. Moreover, a number of discussions were found to emerge which were not reported in previous literature. Our study is the largest in-depth analysis of tweets on infectious diseases. Our results will inform public health strategies for future infectious disease outbreaks. Future work will seek to conduct further comparisons and explore relevant health theory.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ahmed W, Bath P, Sbaffi L, Demaerini G

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 9th International Conference on Social Media & Society

Year of Conference: 2018

Pages: 217-221

Online publication date: 20/07/2018

Acceptance date: 16/03/2018

Date deposited: 04/07/2019

Publisher: Association for Computing Machinery


DOI: 10.1145/3217804.3217915

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781450363341


Link to this publication