Research by our Truthy team was recently featured in New Scientist, USA Today, and the cover story of Science News. The Truthy project, developed by CNetS researchers and doctoral students, aims to study the factors affecting the spread of information — and misinformation — in social media.
The Truthy site charts tweet sentiment and volume related to themes such as social movements and news. It also monitors Twitter activity to build interactive networks that let visitors visualize the diffusion networks of memes, identify the most influential information spreaders, and explore those influential feeds and other information about their online activity, such as sentiment and language. Other tools let you map the geo-temporal diffusion of memes, generate YouTube movies that display how hashtags emerge and connect, and download data directly from Twitter. With these analytics, one can begin to ask question such as: How does sentiment change in response to events and memes? What memes survive over time? Who are the most influential users on a particular topic?
In our paper on Competition among memes in a world with limited attention in Nature Scientific Reports,Lilian Weng and coauthors Sandro Flammini, Alex Vespignani, and Fil Menczer report that we can explain the massive heterogeneity in the popularity and persistence of memes as deriving from a combination of the competition for our limited attention and the structure of the social network, without the need to assume different intrinsic values among ideas. The findings have been mentioned in the popular press, including Information Week, The Atlantic, and the Dutch daily NRC.
Prof. Flammini (PI) and Menczer have been awarded a three-year, $2M grant from DARPA in the context of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, whose primary goal is “to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base,” Our IU unit leads a three-group team that includes collaborators at Lockheed-Martin Advanced Technology Lab and the University of Michigan. The funded project is aimed at designing and implementing a system to detect online persuasion campaigns.
We’re pleased to report several exciting developments in our interdisciplinary project studying information diffusion in complex online social networks. The past year has resulted in several publications. Our results on the Truthy astroturf monitoring and detection system were presented at WWW 2011 and ICWSM 2011. Research into the polarized network structure of political communication on Twitter was presented at ICWSM and received the 2011 CITASA Best Student Paper Honorable Mention. We demonstrated the feasibility of the prediction of individuals’ political affiliation from network and text data (SocialCom 2011), a machine learning application that enables large-scale instrumentation of nearly 20,000 individuals’ political behaviors, policy foci, and geospatial distribution (Journal of Information Technology and Politics). We’re also working on a paper on partisan asymmetries in online political activity surrounding the 2010 U.S. congressional midterm elections.
Current and future research is supported by an award from the NSF Interface between Computer Science and Economics & Social Sciences program, and a McDonnell Foundation grant. The former will focus on building an infrastructure for the study of information diffusion in social media, the characterization of meme spread patterns, and the development of sentiment analysis tools for social media. The latter will focus on modeling efforts, especially agent-based models of information diffusion, competition for attention, and the relationship between information sharing events and social network evolution.
Astroturfers, Twitter-bombers and smear campaigners need beware this election season as a group of leading Indiana University information and computer scientists today unleashed Truthy.indiana.edu, a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation leading up to the Nov. 2 elections. Combing through thousands of tweets per hour in search of political keywords, the team based out of IU’s School of Informatics and Computing will isolate patterns of interest and then insert those memes (ideas or patterns passed by imitation) into Twitter’s application programming interface (API) to obtain more information about the meme’s history.
Fil Menczer is one of the organizers of Hypertext 2009, the 20th ACM Conference on Hypertext an Hypermedia. The conference will be held June 29-July 1 at the Villa Gualino Convention Centre, on the hills overlooking Torino, Italy. Hypertext is the main venue for high quality peer-reviewed research on “linking.” The Web, the Semantic Web, the Web 2.0, and Social Networks are all manifestations of the success of the link. With a 70% increase in submissions, Hypertext 2009 will have a strong and diverse technical program covering all research concerning links: their semantics, their presentation, the applications, as well as the knowledge that can be derived from their analysis and their effects on society. The conference will also feature demos, posters, a student research competition, four workshops, and keynotes by Lada Adamic and Ricardo Baeza-Yates.