Pleas for help on social media are
submerged by noise and discordance

The surge in Coronavirus cases in the United States is putting unprecedented pressure on our first responders and healthcare workers. Additionally, government-mandated shutdowns have greatly affected the economy making it difficult for small businesses to stay afloat. As the pandemic progresses with no signs of stopping, people are taking to social media in search of relief. However, more often than not, their pleas do not come across donors or critical resource distributors because of the hectic environment of the social media platform.

5 popular COVID-19 related hashtags contribute to more than 80,000 tweets daily and only ~4% of those are of interest.

From a typical day in July, there are 81,422 tweets alone from twitter that are related to 5 popular COVID-19 hashtags. Only 4.15% of those tweets are related to topics that can be potential pleas for help – frontline workers, critical resources, and reopen the economy. Without an efficient tool to sift through those social media posts, it is very difficult to find pleas for help in the noisy and chaotic social media platform.

Noise such as non-US location, political, gibberish, and appreciation make it difficult to identify those who need help.

People who are serious about asking for help usually provide their location. We infer the location from the tweet's embedded geo-location, author location, and text. Gibberish tweets are usually short, meaningless sentences or spam. Political discussions make up a large portion of the white noise. Emotion and keyword analysis help distinguish gratitude and other off-topic discussions as noise.

Focusing on broad issues to support
the pandemic mitigation

We understand that the pandemic affects society as a whole. The nature of the contagious disease also means the overall effectiveness is decided by the weakest link in the chain. Thus, we are trying to provide aid to all who are affected.

Protect our heroes

Doctors, nurses, first responders, pharmacists, and many other public sector workers are working in the frontline to protect us. Listening to their voice and providing the help they need is our way of saying thank you. Protecting our heroes is also an effective way to protect society as a whole.

Help them out!

PPE and beyond

Critical resources, e.g. PPE, ventilator, testing material, and etc, are important tools used to fight the pandemic. This platform can help find those who are screaming for these resources. We are the caring ears and we want to influence the distribution of such critical resources to where it's most needed.

Help them out!

Reopen the economy

Reopen the economy needs constant balancing between people mobility and social distancing. Different challenges exist in different areas, e.g. school, transportation, and small-medium-business.
We curate social media posts per area, which makes it easier to see patterns.

Help them out!

Two-tier tagging approach makes it simple to identify those asking for help

We tag and then accordingly organize all social media posts in a two-tier system. The first tier focuses on the main problem areas: protect our heroes, critical resources, and reopen the economy. The 2nd tier tags are more detailed. Furthermore, the common tags in the center of the circle such as location analysis result, emotion analysis result, and common topics related to politics, black lives matter, etc. are applied to all tier-1 tags

Who should use this site?

Whether if you are part of a larger organization or someone looking to do their part in the fight against COVID-19, we have combed through the social media platform, including twitter, facebook, and Instagram, and curated the list to connect you to those who need help.

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Social Network Influencers

Do you only retweet those you are following or those who mention you? What about those in need of help but not yet in your network? If you have large number of followers on social media and you want to help out, this site will connect you to more who may need your help to get their voices heard.

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Charity organizations

This platform helps charity organizations find those who are not vocal enough or those who are not part of any existing charity network. Also we think the COVID-19 pandemic is a new phenomenon, and charities may not have a network to deal with issues on this scale.

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Community volunteers

Want to find those near you who may need help? We use location analysis and we tag the location information to the city level. We also organize the pleas for help into different catagories, e.g. different resource type, service need and business areas.

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Government agencies

The social media platform provides a different perspective to show people in need in addition to the established governmental process. Social media is also complex and impossible for anyone to sift through manually. This platform provides the window for you.

Powered by AI and Automation

At the core of aid-(d)irect is the question of how to get from huge number of social media posts made daily down to the ones that are specifically asking for help. We believe the answer lies in automation, artificial intelligence, and community engagement.

The platform automatically downloads social media posts from the selected hashtags. Location analysis is used to derive the location from the post geo-tag, author location, or text content analysis. The ability to identify the subset of emotions within a piece of text can offer insight into its contents. Certain sentiments are associated with pleas for help, but the boundaries between the different emotions are often subjective, which makes classification difficult. In order to make this process easier, we turn to psychologist Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions – joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust – and how they are related to the feeling of needs met or not met.

After the huge number of posts are filtered through the above mentioned process, we will need our community volunteers to review the result and confirm those. In the end, we leverage our influencer network to promote those posts that are about pleas for help.

Community Based Curation

We are constantly improving the accuracy of our neural network so you can see more relevant information. We will need volunteers in the end to review and confirm. The posts are organized into two-tier tagging system. We also organized the posts by regions to made it simple for volunteers to review their local information.

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