Co-exposure Maximization in Online Social Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Sijing Tu, Cigdem Aslay, Aristides Gionis


Social media has created new ways for citizens to stay informed on societal matters and participate in political discourse. However, with its algorithmically-curated and virally-propagating content, social media has contributed further to the polarization of opinions by reinforcing users' existing viewpoints. An emerging line of research seeks to understand how content-recommendation algorithms can be re-designed to mitigate societal polarization amplified by social-media interactions. In this paper, we study the problem of allocating seed users to opposing campaigns: by drawing on the equal-time rule of political campaigning on traditional media, our goal is to allocate seed users to campaigners with the aim to maximize the expected number of users who are co-exposed to both campaigns.

We show that the problem of maximizing co-exposure is NP-hard and its objective function is neither submodular nor supermodular. However, by exploiting a connection to a submodular function that acts as a lower bound to the objective, we are able to devise a greedy algorithm with provable approximation guarantee. We further provide a scalable instantiation of our approximation algorithm by introducing a novel extension to the notion of random reverse-reachable sets for efficiently estimating the expected co-exposure. We experimentally demonstrate the quality of our proposal on real-world social networks.