Combating Threats to the Quality of Information in Social Systems
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Many large-scale social systems such as Web-based social networks, online social media sites and Web-scale crowdsourcing systems have been growing rapidly, enabling millions of human participants to generate, share and consume content on a massive scale. This reliance on users can lead to many positive effects, including large-scale growth in the size and content in the community, bottom-up discovery of “citizen-experts”, serendipitous discovery of new resources beyond the scope of the system designers, and new social-based information search and retrieval algorithms. But the relative openness and reliance on users coupled with the widespread interest and growth of these social systems carries risks and raises growing concerns over the quality of information in these systems. In this dissertation research, we focus on countering threats to the quality of information in self-managing social systems. Concretely, we identify three classes of threats to these systems: (i) content pollution by social spammers, (ii) coordinated campaigns for strategic manipulation, and (iii) threats to collective attention. To combat these threats, we propose three inter-related methods for detecting evidence of these threats, mitigating their impact, and improving the quality of information in social systems. We augment this three-fold defense with an exploration of their origins in “crowdturfing” – a sinister counterpart to the enormous positive opportunities of crowdsourcing. In particular, this dissertation research makes four unique contributions: • The first contribution of this dissertation research is a framework for detecting and filtering social spammers and content polluters in social systems. To detect and filter individual social spammers and content polluters, we propose and evaluate a novel social honeypot-based approach. • Second, we present a set of methods and algorithms for detecting coordinated campaigns in large-scale social systems. We propose and evaluate a content- driven framework for effectively linking free text posts with common “talking points” and extracting campaigns from large-scale social systems. • Third, we present a dual study of the robustness of social systems to collective attention threats through both a data-driven modeling approach and deploy- ment over a real system trace. We evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures deployed based on the first moments of a bursting phenomenon in a real system. • Finally, we study the underlying ecosystem of crowdturfing for engaging in each of the three threat types. We present a framework for “pulling back the curtain” on crowdturfers to reveal their underlying ecosystem on both crowdsourcing sites and social media.
Lee, Kyumin (2013). Combating Threats to the Quality of Information in Social Systems. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from