New Delhi: The Youth Congress chief, an AAP MLA and actor Sonu Sood — these were the top three people whose Twitter accounts were tagged by users sending emergency SOS requests as India reels under the deadly second wave of Covid-19.
The study, conducted on 29 April by DFRLab, the digital forensic research lab of Washington DC-based “nonpartisan organisation” Atlantic Council, says Srinivas B.V., the national president of the Indian Youth Congress, was tagged in 88,321 SOS tweets.
The second and third most tagged Twitter users were AAP MLA Dilip Pandey, (74,492 tweets) and actor Sonu Sood (71,969 tweets). These were followed by stand-up comic and writer Varun Grover, and actor Vineet Kumar Singh.
The research was conducted by Ayushman Kaul, a DFRLab research assistant, and Devesh Kumar, an independent data analyst.
How SOS tweets were analysed
Using an open-source tool called Twint, the researchers analysed SOS tweets from Indian users between 1 March and 21 April.
Tweets asking for medical help were filtered by pairing keywords like “oxygen, plasma donation, hospital beds” with words like “help, require, needed”.
The study identified 81.63 million tweets seeking help, or responding with a relevant resource.
“The number of SOS messages increased more than seven-fold to 41 million tweets between 8 April and 14 April, providing some indication of the severity of the public health crisis”, the study said.
Most tweets on oxygen, remdesivir
Out of the approximately 81 million tweets analysed, 36.9 million were on sourcing or refilling oxygen cylinders.
Meanwhile, 14.1 million tweets were on anti-viral drug remdesivir.
There were 13.9 million tweets from users trying to find hospital beds.
“Surprisingly, the number of SOS tweets requesting and responding to queries related to Remdesivir were significantly higher than requests for hospital beds, ventilators, or vaccines, despite its unproven ability to lower mortality rates or the length of hospital stays”, the study noted.
SOS tweets from Delhi-NCR, UP, Gujarat
Delhi-NCR saw the highest number of requests for assistance, with 39.86 million SOS tweets.
After Delhi-NCR, cities of Lucknow, Varanasi, and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh saw requests for assistance, with a combined 19.45 million tweets.
This was followed by Ahmedabad, Surat, and Rajkot in Gujarat, which recorded a combined 12.23 million tweets. 4.19 million tweets asked for help in Pune and Mumbai. 3.16 million tweets asked for help in Bengaluru.
The study also noted that most of the users actively posting and engaging with SOS and emergency tweets were ordinary citizens.
“The engagement of ordinary Indian citizens far outweighed that of prominent social media influencers as well as other public figures in media and government,” the study said.
The study also found over 519,000 individual accounts were responding to SOS tweets. Nearly “three-quarters of these accounts (356,000) belonged to ordinary citizens lacking official Twitter verification or large followings on the platform”, the study said.
By comparison there were 24,000 political leader accounts engaging with SOS tweets, while there were 41,000 reporter/journalist/cartoonist accounts doing the same.