You could soon become an unwitting participant in a federally-funded study of depression on Twitter for a “public health surveillance” project.
The $82,800 taxpayer-funded project, called “Utilizing Social Media as a Resource for Mental Health Surveillance” and financed by the National Institutes of Health, began last month at the University of California, San Diego, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“Major depressive disorder is one of the most common debilitating illnesses in the United States, with a lifetime prevalence of 16.2 [percent],” the project grant states. “Currently, nationwide mental health surveillance takes the form of large-scale telephone-based surveys… We propose using Twitter and [Natural Language Processing] NLP as a cost-effective and flexible approach to augmenting current telephone-based surveillance methods for population level depression monitoring.”
Researchers devised algorithms to detect depression by crunching tweets to monitor mental illness — and plan to tweet at the depressed users themselves, in order to “explore ethical issues in the use of Twitter for public health surveillance.”