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New Keys for the Diffusion of Information in Social Networks

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Information in social networks travels at an unexpectedly slow pace over the Internet with the exception of a few mass events, according to a study by researchers at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) and IBM. The researchers say the spread of information in social networks is largely determined by the heterogeneity of internauts in their response time. Traditional models estimated that internauts respond in approximately one day and, consequently, it takes one day for information to be transmitted.

However, the study found that the spread of information occurs at two speeds due to user activity. "Those who respond very quickly to emails, technology addicts who are always connected, are the ones responsible for spreading certain rumors or campaigns quickly via Internet," says UC3M professor Esteban Moro. The study found that more interesting information spreads faster because people forward the message more quickly. However, if information is not very interesting, diffusion is slower because it is controlled by people who take a long time to respond, causing some rumors or information to remain dormant in social networks long after it has been released.

The researchers created a mathematical model that explains why viral campaigns take so long to work and assesses a campaign's potential impact. "With this experience, we have been able to predict, within a small margin of error, how many people will receive the information, and how long it will take to reach them," Moro says. "It is the first time that we have come up with quantitative models which enable us to predict what is happening."

From Carlos III University of Madrid (Spain)
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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