Twitter said Wednesday it would allow researchers to access data on real-time conversations about the coronavirus pandemic to help deepen their understanding of the disease.
The project is aimed at gathering information about the spread of the illness, assessing the emergency response and communication trends during the crisis, and tackling misinformation.
"This is a unique dataset that covers many tens of millions of tweets daily," the US social network said in a blog.
"The conversations happening on Twitter are highly insightful and have the potential to help the world better understand the COVID-19 pandemic."
Access to Twitter's real-time data could also help develop artificial intelligence tools for scientists working to quell the global outbreak.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Public conversation can help the world learn faster, solve problems better and realize we're all in this together," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said.
European Commission vice president Vera Jourova, who is responsible for disinformation issues, welcomed the initiative.
"I have constantly underlined the importance for researchers to have better access to useful non-personal data and tools," she said in a statement to AFP.