Crowdbreaks is an open platform which allows tracking of health trends by making use of continuous crowdsourced labelling of public social media content. It automatizes the typical workflow from data collection, filtering, labelling and training of machine learning classifiers.
In the past decade, tracking health trends using social media data has shown great promise, due to a powerful combination of massive adoption of social media around the world, and increasingly potent hardware and software that enables us to work with these new big data streams. At the same time, many challenging problems have been identified. First, there is often a mismatch between how rapidly online data can change, and how rapidly algorithms are updated, which means that there is limited reusability for algorithms trained on past data as their performance decreases over time. Second, much of the work is focusing on specific issues during a specific past period in time, even though public health institutions would need flexible tools to assess multiple evolving situations in real time. Third, most tools providing such capabilities are proprietary systems with little algorithmic or data transparency, and thus little buy-in from the global public health and research community. Here, we introduce Crowdbreaks, an open platform which allows tracking of health trends by making use of continuous crowdsourced labelling of public social media content. The system is built in a way which automatizes the typical workflow from data collection, filtering, labelling and training of machine learning classifiers and therefore can greatly accelerate the research process in the public health domain. This work introduces the technical aspects of the platform and explores its future use cases.