Sentiment of the public: the role of social media in revealing important events

Hoda Daou (Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Publication date: 27 November 2020



Social media is characterized by its volume, its speed of generation and its easy and open access; all this making it an important source of information that provides valuable insights. Content characteristics such as valence and emotions play an important role in the diffusion of information; in fact, emotions can shape virality of topics in social media. The purpose of this research is to fill the gap in event detection applied on online content by incorporating sentiment, more specifically strong sentiment, as main attribute in identifying relevant content.


The study proposes a methodology based on strong sentiment classification using machine learning and an advanced scoring technique.


The results show the following key findings: the proposed methodology is able to automatically capture trending topics and achieve better classification compared to state-of-the-art topic detection algorithms. In addition, the methodology is not context specific; it is able to successfully identify important events from various datasets within the context of politics, rallies, various news and real tragedies.


This study fills the gap of topic detection applied on online content by building on the assumption that important events trigger strong sentiment among the society. In addition, classic topic detection algorithms require tuning in terms of number of topics to search for. This methodology involves scoring the posts and, thus, does not require limiting the number topics; it also allows ordering the topics by relevance based on the value of the score.

Peer review

The peer review history for this article is available at:



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the University Research Board (URB) in this research work.


Daou, H. (2020), "Sentiment of the public: the role of social media in revealing important events", Online Information Review, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 157-173.

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