Israelis addicted to tweeter specialized in COVID-19 charts

Tweeting under the name Little Moiz, Eldad Sitbon has become a source of reference with his coronavirus graphs and charts.

al-monitor In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a cellphone in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 10, 2020. Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images.

Nov 3, 2020

On the morning of Nov. 1, Eldad Sitbon posted two tweets. In the first, he referred to the recent dispute in Israel whether first and second graders should wear face masks at school. More specifically, he was reacting to a post by Channel 2 News that said the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health are considering canceling the requirement for young students to wear face masks. "Despite what people explained yesterday, I still think it would be better to let go of masks," Sitbon tweeted.

A few minutes later, Sitbon posted a second tweet, this time detailing in numbers and in words the development of the coronavirus pandemic in the last 24 hours. He wrote, "649 confirmed cases since yesterday. The percentage of positive cases keeps increasing little by little … 3.1%. Contrary to May, this time we failed going under 1% of positive cases. I read yesterday the report issued by the [Home Command] Alon headquarters. To make a long story short, they have no idea what’s going on in the country, because people are not coming in to get tested, and it’s not as if this is not necessary. … My personal feeling is that the situation is really shitty and developing in a shitty direction …"

Sitbon tweets — under the name Little Moiz — several times a day, and some days he tweets as many as 10 times or even more. Almost all his tweets relate to the coronavirus pandemic, often with graphs, charts and plans that illustrate the progress of the outbreak. But his tweets have nothing to do with those of the Ministry of Health or information released by public health experts. He writes in colloquial Hebrew, just the way people talk in real life.

On Oct. 31, Sitbon referred to the number of coronavirus-related deaths. "It’s Saturday night and it’s time to talk about mortality rate. Stay with me on that for a moment. 95.4% of the people who die of the coronavirus are 56 years or older. If we want to know what’s the real impact of the coronavirus for each town then we need to compare the mortality rate of people of 56 years and older with the total number of this age group in the town. That’s what I did. I compared the number of people aged 56 and older who died of the coronavirus with their percentage in the population. As for conclusions, I leave it to the experts and the mystics …" The text is accompanied by a simple two-colored graph, easy to read and understand.

This text was cited several times on the radio and TV talk shows, and received almost 200 likes and 18 shares. There were also a lot of comments, including by leading journalists and health experts. And that's just an example; other tweets are getting the same attention or even more.

It seems that for many Israelis Little Moiz has become their No. 1 source for reliable coronavirus information. But how did Sitbon become such a coronavirus expert? Interviewed by ultra-Orthodox Kol Barama radio station, Sitbon recounts that it all started with the first lockdown in March. His wife came back from Italy just hours before the first lockdown and was ordered to self-isolate. He started looking for information about the virus that causes COVID-19, but found little. Or rather, the limited information he found was difficult to understand and to decipher. "I was really drawn into a vacuum of data. When my wife went into quarantine, she was one of the first people in Israel to do so. I had to find something to do, to calm myself — so I started researching. I was sucked into this issue, which was so interesting and new. And little by little I realized that graphs are part of this coronavirus game — that people are thirsty for graphs and for data. They like to see graphs and understand them. At the beginning, I admit, I was quite an amateur but I got better with time," he said.

Indeed, Sitbon has no reason to be modest. He might be a restaurant owner by profession, but mainstream media outlets such as Ynet and Calcalist are quoting the data he is publishing. Even the Health Ministry has used some of the graphs he has produced. They see that he manages to render data that is often very complex, and make it much more accessible. Sitbon uses data and numbers that are out there in the social media sphere, but he knows how to present them in a clear and concise manner.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich, for instance, published Oct. 10 an op-ed on getting infected with COVID-19. She was preaching to those who dismiss offhandedly the danger of the virus, and those who say that statistically the chance to get infected is really low. Making her point, the text that she published was accompanied by one of Sitbon’s graphs.

Practically all coronavirus data in Israel is transparent. The Health Ministry has done a great job communicating since the pandemic started, mainly by creating the Corona Dashboard, a site dedicated to coronavirus information that includes daily updates on the number of people infected, the number of active cases, the number of people hooked to respirators, the number of people who recovered and the number of tests conducted. The site also offers weekly charts about coronavirus trends, in various shapes and colors.

Still, it is the multitude of information that is the ministry’s undoing. With too many numbers, people get lost. Little Moiz is out there for that exact reason. Judging by the number of his followers, he is doing an excellent job.

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