Why rumors spread fast in social networks

May 21, 2012

Information spreads fast in social networks. This could be observed during recent events. Now computer scientists from the German Saarland University provide the mathematical proof for this and come up with a surprising explanation.

"It is fascinating," Tobias Friedrich of the Cluster of Excellence on "Multimodal Computing and Interaction" says. He points out that so far, it has been assumed that the uncontrolled growth in social networks creates a structure on which information spreads very fast. "But now we can prove it in a mathematical way," says Friedrich, who leads the independent research group "Random Structures and Algorithms."

Together with his research colleagues Benjamin Doerr, adjunct professor for algorithms and complexity at Saarland University, and the PhD student Mahmoud Fouz he proved that information spreads in social networks much faster than in networks where everyone communicates with everyone else, or in networks whose structure is totally random.

The scientists explain their results through the successful combination of persons with many contacts and persons with only a few contacts. "A person who keeps only a few connections can inform all of these contacts very fast," Friedrich says. Additionally, it can be proved that among these few contacts there always is a highly networked person who is contacted by a lot of other people in the social network, the scientist points out. "Therefore everybody in these networks gets informed rapidly."

To model how people connect with each other in a social network, the scientists chose so-called preferential attachment as a basic . It assumes that new members of a social network would more likely connect to a person maintaining many connections than to a person with only a few contacts. The communication within the network is based on the model that every person regularly exchanges all information with his or her contacts, but never speaks to the person contacted in the previous communication round.

Explore further: Mathematical model tackles 'Game of Thrones' predictions

More information: It took the scientists twelve pages to write down the mathematical proof. They explain the concept of the proof more simply in the article "Why Rumors Spread Fast in Social Networks," published in the peer-reviewed magazine Communications of the ACM in June.

See also:
Social Networks Spread Rumors in Sublogarithmic Time www.mpi-inf.mpg.de/~tfried/paper/2012CACM.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sustainability solutions need the power of networks

Feb 21, 2011

The choices an individual makes about environmental issues are affected by family, friends and others in a person's social network. Michigan State University scientists are studying how to harness the power of social networks ...

How quickly things spread

Feb 21, 2012

Understanding the spread of infectious diseases in populations is the key to controlling them. If we were facing a flu pandemic, how could we measure where the greatest spreading risk comes from? This information ...

Half of your friends lost in seven years

May 28, 2009

Had a good chat with someone recently? Has a good friend just helped you to do up your home? Then you will be lucky if that person still does that in seven years time. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst investigated how the context ...

Recommended for you

And now the Acropolis is crumbling...

37 minutes ago

Just when Greece thought it had come through the worst of the crisis it was hit by a new blow Wednesday—the Acropolis is crumbling.

Power can corrupt even the honest

7 hours ago

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

8 hours ago

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

9 hours ago

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

User comments : 0