Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Italy uses tweets to gauge ‘mood’ on the economy


Italy’s economy has not been faring well lately and the country is not happy about it, if the mood on social media is any guide.

The Italian National Institute of Statistics has an experimental index based on Twitter posts, which it said has taken a dramatic turn lower since late last year.

The “Social Mood on Economy” gauge was relatively steady through the middle of last year, then “waxed and waned” before it “sharply decreased at the beginning of December,” the institute said

The drop is little surprise, given that the Italian economy has contracted for two straight quarters and the European Commission has forecast that it might barely grow at all this year.

The past year was a rocky one for the nation, with a controversial budget that sent sovereign borrowing costs higher, damaged sentiment and sparked a clash with the EU.

“The mood highlighted by the Twitter users across the nation seems to be consistent, at least in the short term, with the broad economic trend,” institute Director Roberto Monducci said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The institute creates the index by collecting and processing tweets that include at least one of a number of specific keywords. On average, the program runs its sentiment analysis on about 50,000 tweets per day.

Economists occasionally point to the shortcomings of traditional data such as GDP in trying to determine how a country is really faring, and countries have been experimenting.

The UK has a measure of “personal and economic well-being,” while the Himalayan nation of Bhutan is known for its Gross National Happiness measure.

The next update of Italy’s index is scheduled for April and is to cover the first three months of this year.

Monducci declined to comment on what the current trend of the index was signaling.

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