Probabilistic causal analysis of social influence

Francesco Bonchi, Bud Mishra, Francesco Gullo, Daniele Ramazzotti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Mastering the dynamics of social influence requires separating, in a database of information propagation traces, the genuine causal processes from temporal correlation, i.e., homophily and other spurious causes. However, most studies to characterize social influence, and, in general, most data-science analyses focus on correlations, statistical independence, or conditional independence. Only recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in causal data science, e.g., grounded on causality theories. In this paper we adopt a principled causal approach to the analysis of social influence from information-propagation data, rooted in the theory of probabilistic causation. Our approach consists of two phases. In the first one, in order to avoid the pitfalls of misinterpreting causation when the data spans a mixture of several subtypes ( Simpson's paradox ), we partition the set of propagation traces into groups, in such a way that each group is as less contradictory as possible in terms of the hierarchical structure of information propagation. To achieve this goal, we borrow the notion of agony [26] and define the Agony-bounded Partitioning problem, which we prove being hard, and for which we develop two efficient algorithms with approximation guarantees. In the second phase, for each group from the first phase, we apply a constrained MLE approach to ultimately learn a minimal causal topology. Experiments on synthetic data show that our method is able to retrieve the genuine causal arcs w.r.t. a ground-truth generative model. Experiments on real data show that, by focusing only on the extracted causal structures instead of the whole social graph, the effectiveness of predicting influence spread is significantly improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCIKM 2018 - Proceedings of the 27th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management
EditorsNorman Paton, Selcuk Candan, Haixun Wang, James Allan, Rakesh Agrawal, Alexandros Labrinidis, Alfredo Cuzzocrea, Mohammed Zaki, Divesh Srivastava, Andrei Broder, Assaf Schuster
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Pages1003-1012
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450360142
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2018
Event27th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM 2018 - Torino, Italy
Duration: Oct 22 2018Oct 26 2018

Publication series

NameInternational Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, Proceedings

Other

Other27th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM 2018
CountryItaly
CityTorino
Period10/22/1810/26/18

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Decision Sciences(all)

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  • Cite this

    Bonchi, F., Mishra, B., Gullo, F., & Ramazzotti, D. (2018). Probabilistic causal analysis of social influence. In N. Paton, S. Candan, H. Wang, J. Allan, R. Agrawal, A. Labrinidis, A. Cuzzocrea, M. Zaki, D. Srivastava, A. Broder, & A. Schuster (Eds.), CIKM 2018 - Proceedings of the 27th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 1003-1012). (International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, Proceedings). Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/3269206.3271756