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SDSU looks for influential ‘tweeters’ to spread county’s emergency messages

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SAN DIEGO – Official emergency messages for San Diego County might be spread in the future by the most influential “tweeters,” San Diego State University announced Monday.

SDSU geography professor, Ming-Hsiang Tsou, is compiling a list of 1,000 influential twitter users based in San Diego, so emergency messages about evacuations and road closures can be spread faster to targeted areas.

The selected Twitter users will be asked to retweet county emergency messages, ensuring the message will reach almost everyone in San Diego on social media.

The professor will study the way people use social media to communicate about breaking news, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and voting patterns.

“We want to know how people disseminate information in different kinds of situations,” Tsou said. “Why does some information go viral and other information doesn’t? By understanding the mechanisms of Internet memes, we hope to apply that knowledge to disaster awareness. We want to use technology to make emergency warnings go viral.”

Tsou will analyze the 30,000 followers of the official county Twitter account, along with those who follow major media outlets, and determine which ones have the most followers and generate the most retweets.

Also, county officials will be able to monitor social media for rumors and false information, and directly address the falsehoods.

Tsou’s studies are supported by a $1 million grant by the National Science Foundation.