Twitter Bot is Helping to Shut Down Dirty Restaurants in Chicago

Twitter Bot is Helping to Shut Down Dirty Restaurants in Chicago

Think you got food poisoning at that trendy new fusion restaurant last night? Forget about calling it in – tweet it instead, and you might just help shut down a shady business.

According to Business Insider, the Chicago Department of Public Health is using Twitter to collect cases of food poisoning across the city.

They created a Twitter bot that mined Twitter for mentions of food poisoning, and – in combination with an online complaint form – successfully identified 133 restaurants that warranted an inspection within a 10 month period, 21 of which failed.

The bot itself tweets from @foodbornechi. It searches through Twitter’s massive amounts of data for the keyword “food poisoning” sent from accounts located in Chicago and surrounding areas. It then flags the tweets, and staff read them to see if they are actually relevant. If they are, they are flagged again so the algorithm can learn which tweets to pull in the future. Staff also take the time to respond to complaints through the account, pointing people to resources and forms to submit a formal complaint.

In less than a year, from March 2013 to January 2014, the bot identified 2,241 tweets containing the keyword “food poisoning,” which were then narrowed down to 270 relevant tweets. These complaints were directed to the online form, and contributed to four percent of the restaurants that Chicago shut down in that time period.

(Restaurant kitchen image via Shutterstock)