Why cannot long-term cascade be predicted? Exploring temporal dynamics in information diffusion processes

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number202245
Journal / PublicationRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Online published1 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021



Predicting information cascade plays a crucial role in various applications such as advertising campaigns, emergency management and infodemic controlling. However, predicting the scale of an information cascade in the long-term could be difficult. In this study, we take Weibo, a Twitter-like online social platform, as an example, exhaustively extract predictive features from the data, and use a conventional machine learning algorithm to predict the information cascade scales. Specifically, we compare the predictive power (and the loss of it) of different categories of features in short-term and long-term prediction tasks. Among the features that describe the user following network, retweeting network, tweet content and early diffusion dynamics, we find that early diffusion dynamics are the most predictive ones in short-term prediction tasks but lose most of their predictive power in long-term tasks. In-depth analyses reveal two possible causes of such failure: the bursty nature of information diffusion and feature temporal drift over time. Our findings further enhance the comprehension of the information diffusion process and may assist in the control of such a process.

Research Area(s)

  • online social network, information diffusion, cascade prediction

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