Public Sentiment and Discourse on Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Australia: Analysis of Social Media Posts.

JMIR Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2021, 23, (10), pp. 1-11
Issue Date:
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Background: Measuring public response during COVID-19 is an important way of ensuring the suitability and effectiveness of epidemic response efforts. An analysis of social media provides an approximation of public sentiment during an emergency like the current pandemic. The measures introduced across the globe to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus have led to the development of a situation labeled as a “perfect storm,” triggering a wave of domestic violence. As people use social media to communicate their experiences, analyzing public discourse and sentiment on social platforms offers a way to understand concerns and issues related to domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: This study was based on an analysis of public discourse and sentiment related to domestic violence during the stay-at-home periods of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia in 2020. It aimed to understand the more personal self-reported experiences, emotions, and reactions toward domestic violence that were not always classified or collected by official public bodies during the pandemic. Methods: We searched social media and news posts in Australia using key terms related to domestic violence and COVID-19 during 2020 via digital analytics tools to determine sentiments related to domestic violence during this period. Results: The study showed that the use of sentiment and discourse analysis to assess social media data is useful in measuring the public expression of feelings and sharing of resources in relation to the otherwise personal experience of domestic violence. There were a total of 63,800 posts across social media and news media. Within these posts, our analysis found that domestic violence was mentioned an average of 179 times a day. There were 30,100 tweets, 31,700 news reports, 1500 blog posts, 548 forum posts, and 7 comments (posted on news and blog websites). Negative or neutral sentiment centered on the sharp rise in domestic violence during different lockdown periods of the 2020 pandemic, and neutral and positive sentiments centered on praise for efforts that raised awareness of domestic violence as well as the positive actions of domestic violence charities and support groups in their campaigns. There were calls for a positive and proactive handling (rather than a mishandling) of the pandemic, and results indicated a high level of public discontent related to the rising rates of domestic violence and the lack of services during the pandemic. Conclusions: This study provided a timely understanding of public sentiment related to domestic violence during the COVID-19 lockdown periods in Australia using social media analysis. Social media represents an important avenue for the dissemination of information; posts can be widely dispersed and easily accessed by a range of different communities who are often difficult to reach. An improved understanding of these issues is important for future policy direction. Heightened awareness of this could help agencies tailor and target messaging to maximize impact.
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