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Published on July 20th, 2016 | by EJC


Location Based Social Media – Potential Of Echosec For journalists Reporting On Emergencies

Echosec, simply put, allows you to navigate to almost any location in the world and examine the social media activity around that vicinity.  Currently, Echosec Pro allows users to access at least the following social data feeds:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Foursquare
  • Panoramio
  • AIS Shipping
  • Sina Weibo
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • VK

The Echosec dashboard layout.

What are the features of Echosec?

Users can plot a rectangle, circle, or a custom shape almost anywhere in the world to display the social media activity around that area. Users can also use advance date filtering features to ensure only relevant posts are displayed.

The Echosec platform provides enormous potential for data journalists as it is possible to select a specific geographical area and examine the social media activity around it. As a result, it is a valuable tool for applying a data driven approach to breaking events or crisis reporting by locating all geo-tagged posts from the relevant area. By the same token, this ability to localize social posts has driven a strong user-base among citizen journalists reporting on very specific areas.

Using Echosec, it is possible to geographically map any location or event in the world. During a crisis, for example, members of the public upload pictures and videos to social media. When these posts are geo-tagged it is possible for emergency workers to rapidly map the image to the location. As well as providing information on an unfolding event, this feature is useful for verification purposes as journalists can ensure that user generated materials do originate from the affected area. In today’s world, where falsified images can spread fast on social media (see, for example, the false images related to Hurricane Sandy), it is important for journalists to verify social media content.

In addition to location-based searching, it is possible to search via keywords and examine where posts derive from. For instance, to find out whether users in certain geographical regions are mentioning a trending hashtag. This is great for investigative journalists looking to explore social media data in order to investigate a story.

One of the biggest advantages of Echosec is that it is not based on a specific social media platform; rather, it allows users to aggregate data from several popular social media networks. Since not all social media platforms are adopted at consistent rates across regions, this feature ensures that a wide range of posts are collected. For example, a journalist covering a story in Russia may miss out on posts from VK (Russia’s most popular social platform) with other tools.

Case study of the Nepal Earthquake

User generated content has the potential to make up for the lack of information reported by traditional media outlets. Echosec was used during the Nepal Earthquake to:

  • Locate people and places through check-ins
  • To find help
  • To locate information instantly
  • To see the devastation in a geographical context
  • To locate hit areas by comparing social media activity before and after the quake

See, for instance, this example below of some  tweets with location information that were retrieved from the disaster zone using Echosec:


How does the technology work?

Echosec works by making use of location-based metadata to search for social media and other open source information. It relies mostly on a range of API requests sent directly to the social media networks (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook etc.), as well as some third party information repositories.

How much does it cost? Is there a free version?

Compared to some of the other social media analytics software out there, Echosec Pro is charged at $89 per month annually. There is also a free version of Echosec that can be accessed here; however, it is important to note that support for this version is limited.

About the Author:

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Wasim Ahmed is a PhD candidate at the Information School, at the University of Sheffield and the Twitter Manager for NatCen’s Social Research networkNew Social Media New Social Science. Wasim has a very successful research blogwhich includes posts about key trends and issues within social media, but also covers more practical posts on using tools to capture and analyse social media data. Wasim is a keen Twitter user (@was3210), and will be happy to answer any technical (or non-technical!) questions you may have.

Image: Echosec website screenshot.

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