IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/plo/pone00/0129179.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Mass Media and the Contagion of Fear: The Case of Ebola in America

Author

Listed:
  • Sherry Towers
  • Shehzad Afzal
  • Gilbert Bernal
  • Nadya Bliss
  • Shala Brown
  • Baltazar Espinoza
  • Jasmine Jackson
  • Julia Judson-Garcia
  • Maryam Khan
  • Michael Lin
  • Robert Mamada
  • Victor M Moreno
  • Fereshteh Nazari
  • Kamaldeen Okuneye
  • Mary L Ross
  • Claudia Rodriguez
  • Jan Medlock
  • David Ebert
  • Carlos Castillo-Chavez

Abstract

Background: In the weeks following the first imported case of Ebola in the U. S. on September 29, 2014, coverage of the very limited outbreak dominated the news media, in a manner quite disproportionate to the actual threat to national public health; by the end of October, 2014, there were only four laboratory confirmed cases of Ebola in the entire nation. Public interest in these events was high, as reflected in the millions of Ebola-related Internet searches and tweets performed in the month following the first confirmed case. Use of trending Internet searches and tweets has been proposed in the past for real-time prediction of outbreaks (a field referred to as “digital epidemiology”), but accounting for the biases of public panic has been problematic. In the case of the limited U. S. Ebola outbreak, we know that the Ebola-related searches and tweets originating the U. S. during the outbreak were due only to public interest or panic, providing an unprecedented means to determine how these dynamics affect such data, and how news media may be driving these trends. Methodology: We examine daily Ebola-related Internet search and Twitter data in the U. S. during the six week period ending Oct 31, 2014. TV news coverage data were obtained from the daily number of Ebola-related news videos appearing on two major news networks. We fit the parameters of a mathematical contagion model to the data to determine if the news coverage was a significant factor in the temporal patterns in Ebola-related Internet and Twitter data. Conclusions: We find significant evidence of contagion, with each Ebola-related news video inspiring tens of thousands of Ebola-related tweets and Internet searches. Between 65% to 76% of the variance in all samples is described by the news media contagion model.

Suggested Citation

  • Sherry Towers & Shehzad Afzal & Gilbert Bernal & Nadya Bliss & Shala Brown & Baltazar Espinoza & Jasmine Jackson & Julia Judson-Garcia & Maryam Khan & Michael Lin & Robert Mamada & Victor M Moreno & F, 2015. "Mass Media and the Contagion of Fear: The Case of Ebola in America," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(6), pages 1-13, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0129179
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129179
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129179
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129179&type=printable
    Download Restriction: no

    Citations

    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Ebola

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Branden B. Johnson, 2017. "Explaining Americans’ responses to dread epidemics: an illustration with Ebola in late 2014," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(10), pages 1338-1357, October.
    2. Barkemeyer, Ralf & Faugère, Christophe & Gergaud, Olivier & Preuss, Lutz, 2020. "Media attention to large-scale corporate scandals: Hype and boredom in the age of social media," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 385-398.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0129179. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (plosone). General contact details of provider: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.