June 25, 2018

Facebook researchers share findings on blending social science with computational approaches at ICWSM 2018

By: Facebook Research, Justin Cheng, Bogdan State, Karthik Subbian, Lada Adamic, Lindsay Reynolds, Shaomei Wu, Eden Litt

Facebook researchers will be presenting two papers at the 2018 International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM) conference this week. ICWSM is a forum that blends social science and computational approaches to answer important questions about human social behavior through social media while advancing computational tools for vast and unstructured data. The research presented at the conference draws upon network science, machine learning, computational linguistics, sociology, communication, and political science.

Facebook will be presenting research that spans two unique areas: one paper studies different ways that cascades grow online as people share with each other, and another examines the experiences and challenges of people with dyslexia when using social media.

Do Diffusion Protocols Govern Cascade Growth? examines the full range of mechanisms underlying the formation of large information cascades. For instance, while an image may be simply re-shared with the tap of a button, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involved a much more complex series of actions: one has to be nominated by a friend, then create and post a video, and finally nominate others to do the same. In the study of 98 of the largest cascades, the team, which included collaborators from Cornell, Stanford, and Carleton College, identified four classes of protocols and two key counterbalancing factors: the effort required to participate in the cascade, and the social cost of staying on the sidelines.

They found that protocols requiring greater individual effort slow down a cascade’s propagation, while those imposing a greater social cost of not participating increase the cascade’s adoption likelihood. For example, an image, being easy to reshare, spreads quickly from person to person, while the Ice Bucket Challenge, requiring substantial effort to complete, spreads much more slowly. But while only a small fraction of friends who see the image end up re-sharing it, a larger fraction of friends nominated to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge follow through despite the additional effort required. These findings provide a framework for understanding how a wide variety of information cascades can achieve substantial adoption across a network.

Receiving a Best Paper award, the second Facebook authored paper, “I’m never happy with what I write”: Challenges and strategies of people with dyslexia on social media, studies the experiences, challenges, and coping strategies of people with dyslexia when using social media. Dyslexia impacts a person’s ability to process and generate written information, and can have lasting effects on how we communicate and express ourselves on social media.

The research started with interviews of 11 people with dyslexia to understand their general experiences with reading and writing content on Facebook. The researchers discovered that compared to reading, writing is a bigger challenge for social media users with dyslexia. Following up on this, they surveyed 492 participants, among whom 67 self-reported as having dyslexia. The survey study confirmed challenges with and strategies for writing unique to people with dyslexia. Besides being technically challenging, writing is also a very emotionally charged experience for them. People with dyslexia rely on digital assistance to improve writing quality, however many of these technologies were not designed for their use case. The findings suggest that there are opportunities to develop better writing support on social sites.

“ICWSM is a pioneering conference in bringing together computational and social science researchers to advance our understanding and improve people’s experiences in social media, much like we do at Facebook. We are excited to continue to contribute to and learn from this community, said Lada Adamic, Director of Computational Social Science at Facebook.

Facebook 2018 ICWSM 2018 papers & workshops

Do Diffusion Protocols Govern Cascade Growth?
Justin Cheng, Jon Kleinberg, Jure Leskovec, David Liben-Nowell, Bogdan State, Karthik Subbian and Lada Adamic

BEST PAPER AWARD WINNER
“I’m never happy with what I write”: Challenges and strategies of people with dyslexia on social media

Lindsay Reynolds and Shaomei Wu

Bridging the Gaps: Social Media, Use and Well-being workshop
Organizers: Megan French, Xun “Sunny” Liu, Samuel Hardman Taylor, Eden Litt

Making Sense of Online Data for Population Research workshop
Organizers: Lee Fiorio, Emilio Zagheni, Afra Mashhadi, Bogdan State, Dennis Feehan