Social media and its dual use in biopreparedness: communication and visualization tools in an animal bioterrorism incident.

Research paper by Elisabeth E Sjöberg, Gary C GC Barker, Jonas J Landgren, Isaac I Griberg, Jeffrey E JE Skiby, Anna A Tubbin, Anne A von Stapelmohr, Malin M Härenstam, Mikael M Jansson, Rickard R Knutsson

Indexed on: 06 Nov '13Published on: 06 Nov '13Published in: Biosecurity and bioterrorism : biodefense strategy, practice, and science


This article focuses on social media and interactive challenges for emergency organizations during a bioterrorism or agroterrorism incident, and it outlines the dual-use dilemma of social media. Attackers or terrorists can use social media as their modus operandi, and defenders, including emergency organizations in law enforcement and public and animal health, can use it for peaceful purposes. To get a better understanding of the uses of social media in these situations, a workshop was arranged in Stockholm, Sweden, to raise awareness about social media and animal bioterrorism threats. Fifty-six experts and crisis communicators from international and national organizations participated. As a result of the workshop, it was concluded that emergency organizations can collect valuable information and monitor social media before, during, and after an outbreak. In order to make use of interactive communication to obtain collective intelligence from the public, emergency organizations must adapt to social networking technologies, requiring multidisciplinary knowledge in the fields of information, communication, IT, and biopreparedness. Social network messaging during a disease outbreak can be visualized in stream graphs and networks showing clusters of Twitter and Facebook users. The visualization of social media can be an important preparedness tool in the response to bioterrorism and agroterrorism.