Computer scientists in the U.S. are gearing up to innovate ways to understand tweets coming up from activists in the revolution-ridden region, MENA.
Tweeters who were leaders in organizing and amassing throngs of protesters in the region, have the meaning of their tweets skewed for curious foreigners as existing computer programs translate in verbatim.
“When you are able to figure out what the topic of the conversation is, what kind of sentiment is being expressed around that, that's the goal of what we are trying to do,” Rohini Srihari, a computer scientist from University of Buffalo told the US-based National Public Radio.
Languages written in Arabic text pose as a challenge as the script and the grammar require grammatical algorithms which are still in the early stages.
Ernest Tucker, a history professor with the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, told NPR that history is best told not by what the Napoleans say, but by the foot soldiers, or, in this case, the tweeters.
"That's the goal of all historians anywhere," he said, adding "to try to get the voices of more and more people into the conversation, and anything that can do that, particularly this kind of thing, is a wonderful gift."
Tucker is skeptical about how well a computer is going to identify sentiment "you'll still need a human linguist to fine-tune any translation".
It is common in Middle Eastern languages to employ couplets from traditional poetry to convey feelings — symbolic language that could confuse a computer program, he added.