Social media and the virality of risk: The Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) model

Santosh Vijaykumar, Yan Jin, Glen Nowak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Social media have transformed traditional configurations of how risk signals related to an infectious disease outbreak (IDO) are transmitted from public health authorities to the general public. However, our understanding of how social media might influence risk perceptions during these situations, and the influence of such processes on ensuing societal responses remains limited. This paper draws on key ideas from the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF), Socially Mediated Crisis Communication (SMCC) model and a case study of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social media management of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic to propose a new conceptual model. The Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) model brings clarity to the new complexities in media management of IDOs by delineating the processes of message diffusion and risk amplification through communication channels that are often highly integrated due to social media. The model offers recommendations for communication priorities during different stages of an IDO. The paper concludes with a discussion of the RAMS model from theoretical and applied perspectives, and sets the direction for future conceptual refinement and empirical testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-677
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


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