Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Online Social Network Analysis for Education, Marketing and Information Warfare

Professor Amr El AbbadiProfessor Amr El Abbadi, from University of California, Santa Barbara talked on "Information Diffusion in Online Social Networks: From Analyzing Trends to Stopping Misinformation" at the Australian National University in Canberra, this morning. He started by discussing Everett Rogers work on Diffusion of Innovations, and Malcolm Gladwell's popular book "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference", before new in depth analysis of how trends spread on-line. This work has very wide spread application: it could be used to design better on-line courses by understanding how information about a topic is diffused within a class, it could be applied to an on-line political campaign, it could be applied to marketing a product. More worryingly, the same techniques could be used by an oppressive regime to identify and neutralize opponents. This could also be used as a key part of information warfare, to identify an attack and counter it. Presumably the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) are working on this as part of their Cyber Event Management and Reporting System , along with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). There is more detail in the paper "Information diffusion in social networks: observing and affecting what society cares about".

DATE: 2012-03-14
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: RSISE Seminar Room, ground floor, building 115, cnr. North and Daley Roads, ANU

Social networks provide great opportunities for social connection, learning, political and social change, as well as individual entertainment and enhancement in a wide variety of forms. Online social networks also provide unprecedented amounts of information about social interaction and provide opportunities to study social interactions on a scale and at a level of detail that has never been possible before. In this talk, we will consider ways of systematically exploring the vast space of on-line social network problems. Namely, we will consider three dimensions; understanding, managing and reporting on social networks and focus on example studies relating to these dimensions. We will focus on two applications: limiting the spread of misinformation in social networks and trend analysis. In the former problem, we study the notion of competing campaigns in a social network, and explore the spread of influence in the presence of such competing campaigns. In particular, we develop protocols whose goal is to limit the spread of misinformation by identifying a subset of individuals that need to be convinced to adopt the competing (or "good") campaign so as to minimize the number of people that adopt the "bad" campaign . The second problem is motivated by the critical role the identification of popular and important topics plays in better understanding societal concerns. We propose two novel structural trend definitions referred to as "coordinated" and "uncoordinated" trends that use friendship information to identify topics that are discussed among clustered and unconnected users respectively. Our analyses and experiments show that structural trends are significantly different from traditional trends and provide new insights into the way people share information online.

This work was done jointly with Divyakant Agrawal and Ceren Budak.
Amr El Abbadi is currently a Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his B. Eng. in Computer Science from Alexandria University, Egypt, and received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in August 1987. Prof. El Abbadi is an ACM Fellow. He has served as a journal editor for several database journals, including, currently, The VLDB Journal. He has been Program Chair for multiple database and distributed systems conferences, most recently SIGSPATIAL GIS 2010 and ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing (SoCC) 2011. He has also served as a board member of the VLDB Endowment from 2002-2008. In 2007, Prof. El Abbadi received the UCSB Senate Outstanding Mentorship Award for his excellence in mentoring graduate students. He has published over 250 articles in databases and distributed systems.

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