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Earthquake Shakes Twitter Users: Real-time Event Detection by Social Sensors

December 14, 2010

WWW ’10: Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on World Wide Web, 2010

Takeshi Sakaki, Makoto Okazaki, and Yutaka Matsuo

“Twitter, a popular microblogging service, has received much attention recently. An important characteristic of Twitter is its real-time nature. For example, when an earthquake occurs, people make many Twitter posts (tweets) related to the earthquake, which enables detection of earthquake occurrence promptly, simply by observing the tweets. As described in this paper, we investigate the real-time interaction of events such as earthquakes in Twitter and propose an algorithm to monitor tweets and to detect a target event. To detect a target event, we devise a classifier of tweets based on features such as the keywords in a tweet, the number of words, and their context. Subsequently, we produce a probabilistic spatiotemporal model for the target event that can find the center and the trajectory of the event location. We consider each Twitter user as a sensor and apply Kalman filtering and particle filtering, which are widely used for location estimation in ubiquitous/pervasive computing. The particle filter works better than other comparable methods for estimating the centers of earthquakes and the trajectories of typhoons. As an application, we construct an earthquake reporting system in Japan. Because of the numerous earthquakes and the large number of Twitter users throughout the country, we can detect an earthquake with high probability (96% of earthquakes of Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) seismic intensity scale 3 or more are detected) merely by monitoring tweets. Our system detects earthquakes promptly and sends e-mails to registered users. Notification is delivered much faster than the announcements that are broadcast by the JMA.”

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