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Purpose The use of social media has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media platforms provide opportunities to share news, ideas and personal stories. Twitter is used by citizens in Pakistan to respond and comment on emerging news stories and events. However, it is not known whether Twitter played a positive or negative role in spreading updates and preventive messages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study is to analyse content from Twitter during the pandemic. Design/methodology/approach NodeXL was used to retrieve data using the keyword وائرس کورونا (written in Urdu and which translates to Coronavirus). The first data set (Case Study 1) was based on 10,284 Twitter users from the end of March. The second data set (Case Study 2) was based on 10,644 Twitter users from the start of April. The theoretical lens of effective message framing was used to classify the most retweeted content on Twitter. Findings Twitter was used for personal and professional projections and included certain tweets included political motives even during the unfolding health crisis. There appeared to be very few successful attempts to use Twitter as a tool for health awareness and risk communication. The empirical findings indicate that the most retweeted messages were gain-framed and can be classified as personal, informative and political in nature. Originality/value The present study provides insights likely to be of interest to researchers, health organizations, citizens, government and politicians that are interested in making more effective use of social media for the purposes of health promotion. The authors also provide novel insights into the key topics of discussions, websites and hashtags used by Pakistani Twitter users during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Social network analysis of Twitter data from
Pakistan during COVID-19
Syeda Hina Batool
Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab Quaid-i-Azam Campus, Lahore, Pakistan
Wasim Ahmed
Management School, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
Khalid Mahmood
Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab Quaid-i-Azam Campus, Lahore, Pakistan, and
Ashraf Sharif
The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
Abstract
Purpose The use of social media has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media platforms provide opportunities to share news, ideas
and personal stories. Twitter is used by citizens in Pakistan to respond and comment on emerging news stories and events. However, it is not known
whether Twitter played a positive or negative role in spreading updates and preventive messages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of
this study is to analyse content from Twitter during the pandemic.
Design/methodology/approach NodeXL was used to retrieve data using the keyword (written in Urdu and which translates to
Coronavirus). The rst data set (Case Study 1) was based on 10,284 Twitter users from the end of March. The second data set (Case Study 2) was
based on 10,644 Twitter users from the start of April. The theoretical lens of effective message framing was used to classify the most retweeted
content on Twitter.
Findings Twitter was used for personal and professional projections and included certain tweets included political motives even during the
unfolding health crisis. There appeared to be very few successful attempts to use Twitter as a tool for health awareness and risk communication. The
empirical ndings indicate that the most retweeted messages were gain-framed and can be classied as personal, informative and political in
nature.
Originality/value The present study provides insights likely to be of interest to researchers, health organizations, citizens, government and
politicians that are interested in making more effective use of social media for the purposes of health promotion. The authors also provide novel
insights into the key topics of discussions, websites and hashtags used by Pakistani Twitter users during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords Pakistan, Social media, Twitter, Health communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Social networking sites (SNS) are a source of information and
awareness in the domain of public health. Clinicians and public
health institutions may run awareness campaigns through SNS
to disseminate public health messages. A recent major public
health concern is the COVID-19 pandemic which has rapidly
spread across the world.
A major public health challenge has been to stop the spread
of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World
Health Organization has declared COVID-19 to be a
worldwide threat. A number of information channels such as
broadcast and print media played a positive role by including
information on prevention messages, updates and guidelines.
Gao et al. (2020) reported that a number of global cross-
sectional surveys investigated the exposure of citizens to social
media platforms and found large increases in users accessing
various platforms. However, increased use of social media also
led to the transmission of misinformation (Ahmed et al., 2020).
The forced isolation policies and lockdown led to an increase in
peoples online interactions. Specically, in Pakistan, social
media usage increased during the pandemic and a total of 78
million broadband subscribers were using social media, Web-
conferencing services and other interactive applications to work
from home and for social connectivity (Murtaza, 2020).
Recent work (Mittal et al., 2021) has examined content
shared on social media platforms in English predominantly
covering the USA and the UK. There is a lack of research in
developing Asian countries in regard to analysing social media
content and particularly social media content from Pakistan.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald
Insight at: https://www.emerald.com/insight/2398-6247.htm
Information Discovery and Delivery
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 2398-6247]
[DOI 10.1108/IDD-03-2021-0022]
Received 3 March 2021
Revised 4 June 2021
6 August 2021
13 September 2021
22 October 2021
Accepted 8 November 2021
Health authorities conrmed the rst case of COVID-19 in
Pakistan in the city of Karachi on 26 February 2020. Almost
within a month, the number of conrmed cases reached 2,289
on 1 April 2020. The ofcial statistics conrmed that the most
affected patients were male and between 60 and 69 years of age.
At the time of writing, the total number of citizens infected
stood at 139,229 with 2,632 conrmed deaths causing not only
health but also a social and economic crisis (Government of
Pakistan, 2020).
Previous studies have found effective use of Twitter in
Pakistan during political campaigns such as for charity
purposes and other natural crisis events (Kagan et al., 2015;
Murthy and Longwell, 2013;Khan et al., 2018). However,
there is a lack of empirical research on how Pakistani citizens
and organizations were using Twitter during the COVID-19
pandemic. Keeping in mind the alarming situation, the present
study aims to analyse the health awareness campaigns and
control strategies of Pakistani Twitter users. Tweets were
collected in two phases in the months of March and April 2020.
More specically, the present study aims to address the
following research questions:
RQ1. What was the network shape of the discussions taking
place related to COVID-19 in Pakistan?
RQ2. What were the network metrics of the data such as
inuential users, popular web sources and commonly
used words?
RQ3. What key themes emerged during the discussion and
how can the theory of message framing be used to
interpret popular (most retweeted) tweets?
The present study aims to investigate Twitter health message
framing and its effects. Our ndings are likely to be of interest
to governments and public health authorities in Pakistan, as
well as around the world. Our work will add to the existing
body of literature around the use of social media for public
health and serve as a contribution to message framing theory.
Furthermore, the potential audience of tweets being sent and
read in Pakistan during the pandemic has a potential reach in
the millions. Our two data sets contain conversations from over
20,000 Twitter users who all have their own followers. The
Twitter account of Imran Khan (the current prime minister of
Pakistan), who is one user within our data, has over 14.5
million followers alone. Moreover, tweets are also indexed
across the Web and included in media reports giving them
widespread visibility. From a public health perspective, it is
vital to gain an understanding of the types of information being
shared and content being consumed.
Literature review
Theoretical lens
Theoretically, the present study will apply the effective message
framing approach to analyse Twitter data. In digital marketing,
message framing is a technique to shape and form opinions,
which posits that a consumers response always depends on how
the message is composed and encoded (Cheng et al.,2011).
Message framing may affect an individuals behaviour decision-
making.
The connection between message framing and behavioural
actions is rooted in prospect theory (de Bruijn, 2019).
According to prospect theory, an individuals decision-making
preferences may alter the way information arrives at them
(Hennig-Thurau et al.,2015). For example, a gain-framed
message (eat healthy food to retain quality life) may make
people avoid risk. On the other hand, a loss-framed message
(if you do not eat healthy food, you will lose the quality of life)
may make people take risks considering the potential loss
(Updegraff and Rothman, 2013).
Prospect theory was originally proposed to explain the
choices among lotteries involving monetary outcomes
(Kahneman and Tversky, 1979). The theory proposed that
people do not take risks when they are confronted with the
advantages of decisions, however, they do take risks when
confronted with the price of a decision (Adonis et al., 2015).
Health behaviours are much affected by the framing of
information messages (gain/loss frame). Several research
studies (Rothman et al.,1993;Rivers et al., 2005;Sherman
et al.,2006;Gallagher and Updegraff, 2012) have investigated
the impact of framing health messages on behaviours. The
message theory was rst put forth by Erving Goffman in 1974.
He wrote an essay on the organization of experience under the
title of Frame Analysis. He put forth that people interpret what
is going on around their world through their primary
framework. The theory suggests that message effectiveness is
inuenced by the type of behaviour promoted and the framing
of the health message (Rothman et al.,2006). Gain frame
messages emphasize the benets of behaviour change
(quitting smoking lowers your risk of lung cancer) and loss-
frame messages emphasize the costs of failure to act (by not
quitting smoking, you increase your risk of lung cancer)
(Latimer et al.,2008). Positively framed messages describe the
positive consequences of having examination or adopting
prevention behaviour. Contrary to this, negative framing
emphasizes on loss or failure of not having those preventions or
examinations (Rothman et al.,1993). The scope of the present
study is to identify the positive and negative framing of Twitter
messages and their popularity (network shape, retweet count)
during the recent outbreak of COVID-19.
Negatively and positively farmed information inuences the
choices, attitudes and behaviours of citizens signicantly. It has
been argued that negatively framed messages are more effective
in persuading people than positively framed messages.
However, research has also established that message framing
does not always produce consistent results, the personality and
behaviour of the decision-maker are also signicant in this
regard (Rothman et al.,1993). The framing angle of prospect
theory determines that people respond differently to loss or
gain-framed messages such as when exposed to gains they avoid
risk (they are risk-averse), on the other hand, they may prefer
risk when considering losses. In addition, this perspective
involves two phenomena, framing and reection effects. A
negative frame may state the negative consequences of an
option and a negative reection may describe the outcome of
losing someones belonging (Rothman et al., 1993). The
present study will look into the framing effects of Twitter health
messages.
A number of studies have measured the impact of health
message framing through empirical research (Detweiler et al.,
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
1999;Gallagher and Updegraff, 2012;Rivers et al.,2005).
Studies related to message framing have examined human
behaviours, our study aims to identify Twitter messages frames
(positive and negative) during the COVID-19 pandemic and
behaviour will be measured through the shape of networks and
retweet counts. The prospect theory of message framing has
not been widely explored in terms of social media health
campaigns and global health crisis events. This study will draw
upon this theoretical lens when analysing tweets related to the
COVID-19 pandemic.
Role of social media and twitter health research
A wide range of studies have been published on the role of
social media in the health domain. The focus of the present
study was on the inuential role of Twitter in the sharing of the
health information. The literature map in Figure 1 illustrates
that four major aspects (the role of social media in health,
prospect theory in health, message framing in health and how
Pakistani citizens use Twitter) were synthesized during the
literature review procedure.
A number of studies have highlighted the role of Twitter in
health promotion and prevention. Among these studies, some
have also identiedandanalysedtweetcreators.McLaughlin
et al. (2016) collected a total of 1,435 tweets and analysed the
content of 774 English tweets to investigate the propagation of
various issues about daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The researchers also examined the social representations of PrEP
and the features of the sources of those tweets through this study.
They found that inuential tweet creators belonged to news
media, non-governmental organization (NGOs), academic
institutions and commercial companies.
Similarly, another study revealed that stories of news
organizations had a higher impact on spreading health-
related information in comparison to tweets of health
organizations. Radzikowski et al. (2016). In addition, Chew
and Eysenbach (2010) found that resource-related messages
were most frequently shared in tweets and the most popular
sources were news websites. They established this after
analysing the content of more than two million Twitter
messages containing the terms like swineu, swine u and/or
H1N1. However, they noted that the messages related to
government agencies and health organizations were least
popular in tweets.
A growing body of literature has also investigated the
characteristics of shared health-related tweets by diverse
communities. Such as Gough et al. (2017) conducted a quasi-
experimental feasibility study in Northern Ireland using social
media (Twitter) to spread different message frames with regard
to care in the sun and cancer prevention. The researchers
analysed 417,678 tweets and categorized the messages into ve
categories, i.e. humour, shock, informative, personal stories
and opportunistic messages. This study concluded that
shocking and humorous messages generated the greatest
impressions and engagement, but information-based messages
were likely to be shared most.
Similarly, (Ahmed et al., 2019) found in their study that the
most frequently shared tweets were based on Ebola news,
updates or information and on personal opinion and interests
related to Ebola. They discovered this after evidence-based
Figure 1 Reviewed literature map and scope of the study
Role of Social Media in
Health
Role of Twier
in Health
Community Engagement Characteriscs of Tweets
Used Content
Informal terms or Non
Medical terminology
Type of Messages
Updates or Informaon Personal Opinion
Human and Sarcasm State Messages
Informaon propogaon
Tweet Creators
News Organizaon Health Organizaons
Prospect Theory in Health Influence of Loss or Gain
Framed Messages in Health
Gain framed Messages Loss Framed Messages
Message framing and
Social Media
Pakistani Community
Twier Use
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
research, which investigated the information shared through
Twitter on 30 September 2014, when the rst patient was
diagnosed with the Ebola virus-infected outside of West Africa.
It was also revealed that some users were expressing humour
and sarcasm towards the Ebola outbreak, however, on
investigation, those tweets were found to be spam-based.
Likewise, McLaughlin et al. (2016) investigated how
information propagation was affected by Twitter messages with
relevance to PrEP. The study revealed that PrEP-related
information on Twitter implied many issues and individual
users created a number of accounts to propagate messages. In
addition, health-related tweets created a number of community
engagements and networks (Radzikowski et al.,2016).
Inuence of loss or gain-framed messages in health
A considerable amount of published literature has measured
the impact of gain or loss-framed messages on health
information behaviours. Researchers have suggested framing
persuasive health messages to respond to people positively
(Detweiler et al., 1999). Rothman et al. (2006) reviewed the
state of research in this area and the theory on message
framing and how it could inform efforts to enhance health
practices throughout the cancer care continuum. The
researchers found that gain-framed appeals were more
inuential when aiming at behaviours, which prevented
the onset of disease. On the other hand, loss-framed appeals
were more effective when aiming at behaviours, which
detected the presence of an illness. Here, prospect theory
highlighted how health messages should be framed around
potential gains (advantages) or potential losses
(disadvantages) (Detweiler et al.,1999).
Both types of framed messages were found to be equally
persuasive for the respondents. However, interestingly, gain-
framed messages were more motivating in the adoption of
preventive behaviour. Furthermore, negatively framed
information persuaded risk-taking behaviour. Rivers et al. (2005)
conducted a study on 441 women who watched either a loss or
gain-framed video highlighting the prevention or detection roles
of the Pap test. The result of the study found that loss-framed
messages emphasized the costs of not identifying cervical cancer
early, which was a risky behaviour and gain-framed messages
emphasized the benets of preventing cervical cancer, which was
less risky behaviour and this was most persuasive in motivating
womentoobtainaPaptest.
There is a consensus among researchers (Park et al., 2020;
Nan and Madden, 2014;Updegraff et al., 2015;Sherman et al.,
2006) that message framing has a signicant impact on the
health behaviour of individuals. In contrast, an experimental
study in the context of sunscreen use identied no signicant
difference between the behaviours of individuals due to gain or
loss-framed messages (Detweiler et al., 1999). Similarly, Nan
and Maddens (2014) cross-cultural study examined the
inuence of worldviews and message framing on public
opinions towards the human papillomavirus vaccination
mandate. Researchersfound people with different worldviews
reacted differently to loss and grain-framed messages. Such as
people with a hierarchical worldview, a loss-framed (vs gain-
framed) message resulted in greater support for the mandate
and more positive thoughts, whereas the reverse was found for
those with an egalitarian worldview.
Social media and health sector in Pakistan
A number of studies have reported that YouTube and
Facebook are popular social media mediums among Pakistani
students (Naqvi et al.,2020;Ahmad et al., 2019). Javed and
Bhatti (2015) suggested that social media is a timely and
efcient tool to discuss health and patient care issues. Unlike
other disciplines, medical students use social media for
academic purposes including interactive and collaborative
learning (Khan, 2020). Efforts have been made to the digitize
health sector in Pakistan, a case study of a Facebook group
analysed and reported that the group had played a signicant
role in solving women and childrens health issues (Ittefaq and
Iqbal, 2018). In spite of these efforts, the social media
misinformation crisis further complicates the health situation in
the country. A study (Ittefaq et al.,2020) highlighted that
during COVID-19, Pakistani politicians, religious leaders and
the general public became health experts on social media. Their
advice and suggestions created health chaos among the general
public. The researchers suggested improving the health literacy
of the general public through awareness programmes and
training (Ittefaq et al., 2020).
Literature gap
The above-reviewed literature validates the role of social media
in changing health behaviours. Moreover, the prospect theory
of message framing has a signicant impact on behaviours.
However, cultural andcontextual factors may be the key factors
in this regard. A number of international studies measured the
framing of information in the light of such theories. However,
there is a literature gap in the local Pakistani context and very
few international studies have examined this perspective in
relation to social media platforms. Therefore, the present study
aims to use the message framing theory when analysing Twitter
data.
Methods
Research design
This project used NodeXL Ahmed and Lugovic (2019) to
retrieve Twitter data using the keyword (the Urdu
word for coronavirus which was used because our research
revealed that this was the most popular term used on Twitter by
users from Pakistan) and this included users who replied to or
mentioned other users. English tweets were not included because
these tweets are more likely to have been sent by users outside of
Pakistan. NodeXL has recently been used to analyse COVID-19
misinformation on Twitter Ahmed et al., (2020). The study was
pragmatic and applied quantitative analysis of Twitter data, as
well as qualitative interpretation of tweets. More information on
data retrieval will be provided in the Data Retrieval and Analysis
section.
Data collection
This study collected two data sets. The rst data set (Case
Study 1) was based on 10,284 Twitter users from 20-h, the
1-min period from Sunday, 29 March 2020 at 14:21 UTC to
Monday, 30 March 2020. The second data set (Case Study 2)
was based on 10,644 Twitter users from the 1-day, 13-h,
36-min period from Friday, 03 April 2020 at 22:58 UTC to
Sunday, 05 April 2020 at 12:34 UTC. Retrieving and analysing
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
two data sets rather than examining a single data set will
prevent time-specic events from over-representing the results
of our content and social network analysis. It may also help
uncover potential commonalities across time and help improve
the reliability of results.
Data retrieval and analysis
NodeXL was used to retrieve data which is widely used in social
media research. NodeXL draws upon the Twitter application
programming interface (API) which provides access to a
subsample of tweets. NodeXL was selected because it has
access to a number of algorithms and features suitable for our
research such as the ability to group by cluster and its natural
language processing text-analysis functionality. For each data
set, a social network graph was created. The graphs vertices
were grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore
cluster algorithm. The graph was laid out using the Harel-
Koren Fast Multiscale layout algorithm. NodeXL was then
used to identify Twitter users who were inuential by the
betweenness centrality algorithm (users can appear inuential
within the network if they tweet and/or if they were tweeted at).
Users that are inuential by betweenness centrality are likely to
have signicant social capital within a network and are
important users for information propagation. Our study also
identied inuential websites, co-occurring keywords and
hashtags.
Findings
Case study 1 Twitter data from Monday, 30th March
2020
Figure 2 has clustered Twitter users into a number of different
groups. Previous seminal research (Smith et al., 2014) has
identied six types of network structures that Twitter topics
tend to follow. Figure 2 highlights that discussions around
COVID-19 in Pakistan were based on a number of different
groups of users conversing about different topics related to
COVID-19. This graph mostly represents a community
cluster. There are many small and medium groups of Twitter
users who have little overlap. Community clusters are typically
found and created around popular topics and/or global news
events. Inuential users can be found towards the centre of
these groups i.e. news sources.
Interestingly, the tweet with the most retweets is a video of a
famous Pakistani scientist, Dr Atta-ur-Rehman (Table 1) who
noted that COVID-19 may be a biological weapon. The video
message is shared through a commercial website, which
discusses political issues. The most mentioned user
@iamhumayunsaeed is a famous actor and producer who is very
active and participates in awareness campaigns to ght against
COVID-19.
The second group mostly talked about a tweet related to the
role of government in the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The retweeted link was of an online newspaper, which stated,
the high court considered government guilty in the spread of
this virus as people from border and airports easily crossed
border without screening. This group of users mostly
mentioned a parliamentarian and politician @babaksardar,
who has a good number of followers (26,200).
Among the members of the third group, a video of a senator
and politician who tested COVID-19 positive became viral. He
tweeted that although he has no symptoms of COVID-19 and
felt well, he had been self-isolating at home and urged others to
stay at home. Within this group, the most popular mentioned
account belonged to a political party chairman.
Another political tweet was retweeted within the community
of group four. The political personality and deputy secretary to
Chief Minister Punjab (one of Pakistans provinces)
highlighted the efforts of the Chief Minister with regard to the
state-of-the-art medical arrangements in the Province.
Additionally, he purposely mentioned the account of Chief
Minister @usmanakbuzdar.
The fth cluster of the Twitter community retweeted the
news shared by a citizen about the announcement of the award
Nisha-e-Kashmirby the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir for
a doctor who died while treating COVID-19 patients. This
tweet seems to be popular as it showed solidarity with the front
liners (medical staff). The most mentioned user account
(@Senator_Baloch) was of a politician and member of the
provincial assembly who had a good number of followers.
The overall ndings show that only one tweet is informative
in nature and the user sending the tweet was a television actor.
Other inuential Twitter users were political accounts which
means that they were either tweeted by politicians or the most
mentioned users were politicians.
It was evident from the data (Table 2) that the most shared
tweets of news sources or websites belonged to different
Pakistani news channels, such as Geo TV and these were
mostly from the Urdu version of British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) News Uniform Resource Locators
(URLs). In regard to the most popular Web-source, Table 1
highlights that the Pakistani Twitter communitys most shared
article was titled Canadian PMs wife recovered from
coronavirus(n= 180) on the Urdu Geo TV news website.
The second most shared Web-source related to COVID-19
cases and death updates in Pakistan is titled Corona cases
increased in Pakistan: Total 18 deaths(n= 23). Other links
were varied and were related to the issues caused by the
lockdown or working from home (online education) and other
Web-sources were based on monitoring the COVID-19
situation in other countries. It was also found that Pakistanis
Figure 2 Twitter data from Monday, 30th March 2020
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
were interested in COVID-19 updates (tests, drug, etc.) and
the prevention measures and transmission routes of COVID-19
(sneezing, coughing and social distancing).
One of the objectives of the study was to identify the top
hashtags and top words. As can be seen from Table 3, the top
hashtag used was __# (English translation: the
one who is limited is safe)(n= 1,223), the other popular
hashtags include #salutetofrontlinesoldiers(n= 566) (this
hashtag was used by the nation to pay tribute to all front-liners
who are ghting against the pandemic including doctors,
paramedical staff and police ofcers). Other hashtags were
related directly to COVID-19 such as #covid-19,
#coronavirus,#coronainpakistan,#coronaupdateand
#covid19.
The top words used on Twitter from Pakistan were corona
and coronavirussuch as from corona, of the virus, from the
virusand the other word phrases included walk through
gatesand sanitizers. It was apparent from the data that
during the transmission of COVID-19 in Pakistan, the Twitter
communication was focused on COVID-19 news, updates,
reasons, the situation in the world related to virus and
acknowledging the efforts of those who are on the front line and
during the pandemic (Table 4).
The next section provides the results from our second case
study in which data was retrieved on the 5th of April 2020.
Case study 2 twitter data from Sunday, 5th April 2020
Figure 3 presents results from our second case study which
analysed data from Sunday the 5th of April. In this network
visualization, we can also see that the graph mostly represents a
community cluster. There are many small and medium clusters
of Twitter users who have little overlap. A similar network
Table 1 Most retweeted and mentioned users in the top 5 groups for case study 1
NodeXL
group Most retweeted tweet (n)
Most mentioned
user (n)
1Although this has not been proven, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that the coronavirus may not have
formed in a laboratory, but maybe a biological weapon. Dr Atta-ur-Rehman
#DrAtta #Coronavirus
https://t.co/pXenDhTZTZ (293)
iamhumayunsaeed (261)
2The government was very negligent on the issue of coronavirus: Lahore High Court
The full bench remarked that the government has no data on how many people passed without screening
The government was very negligent about the coronavirus. Let the COVID-positive come into the society
https://t.co/HgcqfgJ3VV (547)
babaksardar (13)
3The other day I had a test for coronavirus which was reported to be positive. So far, I have not been able to feel any of
the symptoms of this virus and I am feeling very healthy and my responsibilities at home in isolation. Citizens also stay
at home! https://t.co/2vzS7qt0SY (4886)
bbhuttozardari(97)
4On the special instructions of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Sardar @UsmanAKBuzdar, a 19,000-bed ICU has been set
up to deal with the coronaviruschallenge
The whole world is appreciating the Punjab Governments readiness and response against disease
But I pray to Allah that this sore disease will end, Ameen
https://t.co/L0VBJL4vH (1576)
usmanakbuzdar (20)
5The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider, has announced the states highest ofcial award, the
Kashmir Mark, for Dr Osama Riaz of Gilgit-Baltistan, who died of corona while treating patients with coronavirus
#SaluteToFrontLineSoldiers https://t.co/39Q1xBWz1F (11)
senator_bal (1)
Table 2 Top URLs shared case study 1
Top URLs Description Content Occurrence
https://urdu.geo.tv/latest/217350- Urdu Geo TV news website Canadian PMs wife recovered from coronavirus 180
https://bit.ly/2WU5Uru Urdu Ary TV news website Corona cases increased in Pakistan: Total 18 deaths 23
https://trib.al/MYlZyra BBC News Urdu website Coronavirus: online education continue, students face issues 19
https://trib.al/qapYzpd BBC news Urdu website Is coronavirus spread among Syrian refugee camps? 19
https://trib.al/tdhyqfo BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus: can a small number of tests be harmful to Pakistan? 17
https://nakarkhana.com/3110/ Commercial news website Traumatized by the coronavirus, the German nance minister
committed suicide
17
https://walizone.blogspot.com/ Individual blog website
about health tips
Coronavirus can travel to 27 ft. from sneezing or coughing 17
https://trib.al/gIOs2mu BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus: what is happening in the world 15
https://www.dawnnews.tv/news/
1124224/
Dawn news website Is this experimental drug effective for treating COVID-19? 14
https://trib.al/HsCzYOa BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus: what is happening in the world 13
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
shape and structure was observed for the data from the 30th of
March. This suggests that the discussion around COVID-19
tended to be based on a smaller number of communities,
discussing different topics, throughout the pandemic.
Table 5 reveals that the most retweeted content and
mentioned users related to case study 2. The rst and the
fourth group retweeted a tweet from the chief minister, Punjab
province which provided an update of COVID-19 conrmed
cases and the facilities and treatment provided to citizens
affected. The most mentioned users here are the accounts of
the prime minister of Pakistan and one journalist
@xadeejournalist. Another tweet, which is widely retweeted
within-group two was related to a journalistsreaction to the
government. This was a viral video, which highlighted how the
government was trolling journalists on social media after asking
disliked questions during a media brieng. The most
mentioned noticeable user account belonged to columnist,
anchor and analyst @saleemkhansa
The group retweeted a political video showing that the Prime
Minister did not take precautions while meeting with his
ministers, however, the minister in question was conscious and
maintained social distancing. It aimed to show the causal
behaviour of the Prime Minister during the days of the
pandemic.
The last and the fth group conversed about a tweet posted by
Chief Minister Sindh Province, who was requesting funds for the
COVID-19 emergency. The most popular users within the
communication were @bbhuttozardari, the Chief Ministers
political party leader. Unlike Case Study 1, the most
communicated content in Case Study 2 was related to tweets of
political personalities regarding updates and funding requests.
However, some retweeted content highlighted the actions and
reactions of the Prime Minister, also targeting media on asking
unwanted questions about the prevailing situation in the country.
Table 6 provides the information regarding top URLs (i.e. most
frequently shared) shared in Case Study 2 on 5 April 2020. It was
evident that almost all shared links were of news websites similar to
Case Study 1. Only one shared link belonged to a blog on health
tips. The majority of the links were about the countryssituation
due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It is interesting to note
here that the Twitter community shared news links related to the
situation in neighbouring countries and other political news about
developed countries and their activities. Some of the shared links
informed individual stories of patients who either recovered from
the virus or caused death while ghting against it. It is also evident
from the data that people are interested to know about the
COVID-19 vaccine, its preparation and availability on market.
Table 7 provides an overview of the top hashtags used on
Twitter during this time. It was found that the top hashtag
#stoppoliticssupportpmik was used by Twitter users to support the
present government during the crisis and ask opposition parties to
stop politicizing the issue. The party supporters and citizens used
this hashtag to appreciate the efforts of the government. The
second most popular hashtag was coronaviruswhich is not
surprising given the topic under study. The third hashtag
#ik_saviourofnation was also shared multiple times. The
supporters of the Prime Minister used this hashtag in the support
of him as ikin this context stands for Imran Khan. The other
used hashtags were covid2019,coronaviruspandemicand
covid19. During the crisis, Twitter users also highlighted the
sufferings of Kashmiris (the disputed region between Pakistan and
India) and used the hashtags # feelsufferingsofkashmiris and
#kashmirisrjectindianlaws to show support. The other hashtags
used included #pakistanghtscorona and #pakistan to show
afnity with the country and the efforts of the government and
army.
As shown in Table 8, the top used words used in this network
included coronaand virus, this nding developed an
understanding that Twitter had been used as a strong
communication tool during a pandemic.
Discussion
The results of this study indicate that Twitter is a powerful and
active channel of communication among politicians,
journalists, actors and the wider public. Prior research studies
Table 3 Top hashtags and occurrences
Top hashtags Occurrences
__1,223
salutetofrontlinesoldiers 566
covid_19 457
Coronavirus 227
coronainpakistan 184
tributetodoctorsandforces 177
Coronaupdate 155
covid19 133
coronavirusupdates 122
Arynewsurdu 112
Table 4 Top words used and occurrences
Top words Occurrences
,18,826
,5,109
,4,293
,3,776
ﯿ,3,473
Figure 3 Twitter data from Sunday, 05 April 2020
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
also noted the successful use of this medium by politicians and
dedicated public users (Aharony, 2012;Graham et al.,2016;
Grant et al., 2010). The present study has demonstrated that
Twitter was used during the COVID-19 pandemic for
spreading news, updates and for political scoring between
government and opposition. These results corroborate the
ndings of previous work which claimed that social media can
be an effective tool of fast communication during health-related
crisis events (Eriksson and Olsson, 2016;Khalid et al., 2016;
Kostkova et al.,2014). In addition, the classication of tweets
mirrors the categories identied in previous studies such as
shock, informative, personal stories and opportunistic (Gough
et al., 2017). It is evident from the data that during the health
Table 6 Top URLs shared case study 2
Top URLs Description Content Occurrence
http://urdu.dunyanews.tv/index.
php/ur/Pakistan/539670/
Urdu Dunya TV news website Provincial health minister stated that 90% of infected people
in her province have very limited symptoms
92
https://trib.al/MRY7D4g BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus will destroy the Indian economy and the
government support package is not enough
73
http://urdu.dunyanews.tv/index.
php/ur/Pakistan/539715/
Urdu Dunya TV news website Tragedy over Coronavirus in Sindh, people on daily wages
need food, forced to starve
52
https://m.facebook.com/story.php?
story_fbid=2842033469220370&
id=100002412351802
Video shared from an anchor/news
analyst Facebook account
Prime Minister encountering journalists on the issue of
COVID-19 in the country
41
http://urdu.dunyanews.tv/index.
php/ur/World/539566/
Urdu Dunya TV news website Microsoft owner Bill Gates announces spending billions of
dollars on coronavirus vaccine
40
https://trib.al/A3Ckjk1 BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus: The story of the Kashmiri patient recovering
under the administration of Pakistan
29
https://trib.al/fedlITk BBC news Urdu website Corona: Germany accuses the US of stealingmasks 28
https://walizone.blogspot.com/ Blog on Health tips Coronavirus update: How long can vaccines against
coronavirus be available on the market?
24
https://trib.al/DOWolHK BBC news Urdu website Coronavirus: Nurse Arima Nasreen also lost her life to code-19 22
https://trib.al/wNFSvuj BBC news Urdu website Victims of Delhi riots: First riots and then coronavirus displaced21
Table 7 Top hashtags and occurrences case study 2
Top hashtags Occurrences
Stoppoliticssupportpmik 671
Coronavirus 642
ik_saviourofnation 237
covid2019 209
coronaviruspandemic 199
covid19 191
feelsufferingsofkashmiris 128
pakistanghtscorona 109
Pakistan 108
kashmirisrjectindianlaws 105
Table 5 Most retweeted and mentioned users in the top 5 groups for case study 2
NodeXL
group Most retweeted tweet (n)
Most mentioned
user (n)
1The number of coronavirus cases in Punjab is 1133. 10,623 Tablighi Jamaat preachers have been quarantined in 33
districts and so far 296 cases have tested positive, which are being properly cared for. 312 cases are from different
centres. The remaining 525 people are in different districts (1157)
imrankhanpti
(223)
2Instead of trolling journalists on social media, the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) should focus on
ghting the coronavirus. Statement of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari See the background of trolling journalists https://t.co/
whhEjfBiLZ (568)
saleemkhansa
(45)
3Prime Minister Imran Khan may think that the coronavirus is not so dangerous but Sheikh Rashid does not agree with
his opinion at all. Watch the video #CoronaVirusPakistan https://t.co/cpvo3BQI2j (37)
pak_ngr
(1)
4The number of coronavirus cases in Punjab is 1133 10,623 Tablighi Jamaat preachers have been quarantined in 33
districts and so far 296 cases have tested positive, which are being properly cared for. 312 cases are from different
centres. The remaining 525 people are in different districts (1157)
xadeejournalist
(23)
5Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has appealed to the people of Pakistan and Pakistanis around the world to
donate to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund. https://t.co/lwxIZmCJS9 (253)
bbhuttozardari
(255)
Table 8 Top words used and occurrences case study 2
Top words Occurrences
ﯿ23,320
23,241
21,912
20,667
20,412
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
crisis Pakistani Twitter users mostly shared informative,
political news related to the government on COVID-19 and
personal stories. Pakistani Twitter users were tweeting about
the stories of politicians and famous personalities with regard to
COVID-19.
It was also found that during the health crisis citizens shared
resource-related links such as newspaper websites and the
ndings of this study are consistent with previous research such
as Chew and Eysenbach (2010), who found that news websites
were commonly shared during emergencies. The results related
to tweet creators are in contrast with previous work
McLaughlin et al. (2016) which reported how inuential
Twitter users belonged to NGOs, academic institutions and
commercial companies. For the present study, the most
popular tweet creators were politicians.
Furthermore, message framing theory, which emphasizes the
effectiveness of information construction or framing of messages to
change human behaviours, was applied when analysing our Twitter
data. According to theory (Rothman et al.,2006), gain frame
messages emphasize the gains of behaviour change and loss-frame
messages emphasize the losses caused due to failure in action. The
most retweeted tweets presented in Table 1 (case study 1) and
Table 5 (case study 2) have been analysed with this lens,
interestingly, in comparison to previous research, all messages
(tweets) were political in nature, highlighting the gains of politicians,
opposition leaders and journalists. The tweets highlighting the
change in behaviour, personal and government projection (Table 9,
column 1) have been classied as gain frame messages. In contrast,
tweets criticizing government actions on COVID-19 have been
treatedaslossframemessages(Table 9,column3).InTable 9 the
numbers in brackets for each Twitter message relate to the number
of retweets that they received. Theoretically, the present study
identied gaps in the application of gain or loss frame message
theory. Moreover, our study proposes to extend the gain frame
thread and apply it to social media platforms which is a novel
application and contribution to the message framing theory.
It was also found that most of the popular tweets were gain-
framed, although Twitter users used recent pandemic content
to further political, personal and professional aims. Pakistani
Twitter users engaged with the platform as a communication
tool for popularity, highlighting the efforts of politicians during
a health emergency and opposing the government and the
actions of the Prime Minister. Loss-framed messages were few
in number and contained fewer retweets than gain-framed
messages. Loss-framed messages were also political in nature
and highlighted the negligence of the government on the issue
Table 9 an Analysis of gain/loss frame twitter messages translated into English from Urdu
Case Study 1
Political gain framing Gain framing for appeals or
fundraising
Loss framed messages Messages plotting conspiracies
The other day I had a test for
coronavirus which was reported to
be positive...I am feeling very
healthy and performing my
responsibilities at home in
isolation. I am asking Citizens, also
stay at home (4886)
The government was very negligent
on the issue of coronavirus: Lahore
High Court
The full bench remarked that the
government has no data on how
many people passed without
screening (547)
Although this has not been proven,
we cannot completely rule out the
possibility that the coronavirus may
not have formed in a laboratory but
may be a biological weapon (293)
On the special instructions of the
Chief Minister of Punjab, ....19,000-
bed ICU has been set up ...
The whole world is appreciating the
Punjab Governments readiness and
response ...(1576)
Azad Kashmir Prime Minister ...has
announced the states highest
ofcial award Kashmir Markfor
Gilgit-BaltistansDr..., who died
of Corona while undergoing
treatment for Coronavirus patients
(11)
Case Study 2
Political Gain Framing Gain framing for Appeals or Fund
Raising
Loss Framed Messages Others
The number of cases of coronavirus in
Punjab is 1133. 10,623 Tablighi
Jamaat preachers have been
quarantined in 33 districts and so far
296 cases have tested positive, which
are being properly cared for...(1157)
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali
Shah has appealed to the people of
Pakistan and Pakistanis around the
world to donate to the Coronavirus
Emergency Fund (253)
Focus on ghting the coronavirus
instead of trolling social media for
critics of the government and the
PTI. Statement of Bilawal Bhutto
Zardari (568)
Prime Minister Imran Khan may think
that the coronavirus is not so
dangerous but Sheikh Rashid does
not agree with his opinion at all (37)
Social network analysis
Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
of coronavirus. Only one tweet from case study 1 related to
conspiracy theory on the issue of COVID-19.
Overall, our results show that social media communication
or more specically, Twitter has not been used organically in an
attempt to drive changes in behaviours and that there is
potential to do this. Therefore, not many of these messages can
be structured according to the effective message framing
approach. Social media communication is diverse in nature as
the present study identied different forms of gain frame
messages and a number of other categories.
Previous empirical research has identiedtheroleofsocial
media as an awareness and risk communication tool during health
crises (Jamison-Powell et al., 2012;Kostkova et al., 2014),
however, Twitter users in Pakistan used the platform for personal
projections, political aims and for sharing information.
In regard to limitations, this study made use of the Twitter
Search API which provides a random sample of tweets meaning
that certain tweets may have been missing from our data set.
Moreover, our study examined single time periods which is a
limitation in terms of generalizability to other time periods and
future research could seek to examine other dates. Furthermore,
more general limitations of social media data also apply to our data
such as information quality and reliability. Social media
communication is diverse in nature and future research could use
existing research to further develop a contextualized framework for
classication and/or develop a typology of content.
Conclusion
The ndings of the present study help us to understand how certain
Twitter users in Pakistan were using the platform for personal and
professional projections, as well as politically even during the
unfolding COVID-19 health crisis. Furthermore, according to our
results, it did not appear that Twitter accounts in Pakistan were
making use of Twitter to disseminate awareness of COVID-19 such
as risk communication. This is a low-cost strategy with the potential
of high reach. The results of this study have further practical and
theoretical implications. This is because this research enhances our
understanding of the use of Twitter during the COVID-19
pandemic crisis, namely, that the Pakistani health authorities,
governments and citizens may benet by developing further
knowledge on how to make effective use of communication tools
such as Twitter. There is a need to plan information literacy
training, such as workshops and seminars to make people more
responsible citizens in the use of social media. The Ministry of
Health and/or other health departments may also wish to make use
of Twitter for disseminating factual and timely information.
Educators and researchers may wish to include such components of
training into curricula at different grade levels or for specicsubject
domains. Our application of game framing to social media posts
opens up further avenues for future research and development in
this area.
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Syeda Hina Batool, Wasim Ahmed, Khalid Mahmood and Ashraf Sharif
Information Discovery and Delivery
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Corresponding author
Wasim Ahmed can be contacted at: Wasim.Ahmed@Stir.ac.uk
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