Inferring the Underlying Structure of Information Cascades

Report ID: 
Bo Zong, Yinghui Wu, Ambuj K. Singh and Xifeng Yan
2012-10-01 05:00:00


In social networks, information and influence diffuse among users as cascades. While the importance of studying cascades has been recognized in various applications, it is difficult to observe the complete structure of cascades in practice. Moreover, much less is known on how to infer cascades based on partial observations. In this paper we study the cascade inference problem following the independent cascade model, and provide a full treatment from complexity to algorithms: (a) We propose the idea of consistent trees as the inferred structures for cascades; these trees connect source nodes and observed nodes with paths satisfying the constraints from the observed temporal information. (b) We introduce metrics to measure the likelihood of consistent trees as inferred cascades, as well as several optimization problems for finding them. (c) We show that the decision problems for consistent trees are in general NP-complete, and that the optimization problems are hard to approximate. (d) We provide approximation algorithms with performance guarantees on the quality of the inferred cascades, as well as heuristics. We experimentally verify the efficiency and effectiveness of our inference algorithms, using real and synthetic data.


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