We’ve all seen prompts like this:
More than 100 million of these ReCAPTCHAs get filled out every day on sites like Facebook, Twitter and CNN. Google uses them to simultaneously filter out spam and digitize Google Books and archives of the New York Times. For example:
So what’s the connection to disaster response? In early 2010, I blogged about using massive multiplayer games to tag crisis information and asked: What is the game equivalent of reCAPTCHA for tagging crisis information? (Big thanks to friend and colleague Albert Lin for reminding me of this recently). Well, the game equivalent is perhaps the Internet Response League (IRL). But what if we simply used ReCPATCHA itself for disaster response?
Humanitarian organizations like the American Red Cross regularly monitor Twitter for disaster-related information. But they are often overwhelmed with millions of tweets during major events. While my team and I at QCRI are developing automated solutions to manage this Big (Crisis) Data, we could also use the ReCAPTCHA methodology. For example, our automated classifiers can tell us with a certain level of accuracy whether a tweet is disaster-related, whether it refers to infrastructure damage, urgent needs, etc. If the classifier is not sure—say the tweet is scored as having a 50% chance of being related to infrastructure damage—then we could automatically post it to our version of ReCAPCHA (see below). Perhaps a list of 3 tweets could be posted with the user prompted to tag which one of the 3 is damage-related. (The other two tweets could come from a separate database of random tweets).
There are reportedly 44,000 United Nations employees around the globe. World Vision also employs over 40,000, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has more than 12,000 employees while Oxfam has about 7,000. That’s 100,000 people right there who probably log onto their work emails at least once a day. Why not insert a ReCaptcha when they log in? We could also add ReCAPTCHAs to these organizations’ Intranets & portals like Virtual OSOCC. On a related note, Google recently added images from Google Street View to ReCAPTCHAS. So we could automatically collect images shared on social media during disasters and post them to our own disaster response ReCAPTCHAs:
In sum, as humanitarians log into their emails multiple times a day, they’d be asked to tag which tweets and/or pictures relate to on ongoing disaster. Last year, we tagged tweets and images in support of the UN’s disaster response efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Pablo. Adding a customized ReCAPTCHA for disaster response would help us tap a much wider audience of “volunteers”, which would mean an even more rapid turn around time for damage assessments following major disasters.