Rumour stance classification, defined as classifying the stance of specific social media posts into one of supporting, denying, querying or commenting on an earlier post, is becoming of increasing interest to researchers. While most previous work has focused on using individual tweets as classifier inputs, here we report on the performance of sequential classifiers that exploit the discourse features inherent in social media interactions or 'conversational threads'. Testing the effectiveness of four sequential classifiers -- Hawkes Processes, Linear-Chain Conditional Random Fields (Linear CRF), Tree-Structured Conditional Random Fields (Tree CRF) and Long Short Term Memory networks (LSTM) -- on eight datasets associated with breaking news stories, and looking at different types of local and contextual features, our work sheds new light on the development of accurate stance classifiers. We show that sequential classifiers that exploit the use of discourse properties in social media conversations while using only local features, outperform non-sequential classifiers. Furthermore, we show that LSTM using a reduced set of features can outperform the other sequential classifiers; this performance is consistent across datasets and across types of stances. To conclude, our work also analyses the different features under study, identifying those that best help characterise and distinguish between stances, such as supporting tweets being more likely to be accompanied by evidence than denying tweets. We also set forth a number of directions for future research.
Media is full of false claims. Even Oxford Dictionaries named "post-truth" as the word of 2016. This makes it more important than ever to build systems that can identify the veracity of a story, and the kind of discourse there is around it. RumourEval is a SemEval shared task that aims to identify and handle rumours and reactions to them, in text. We present an annotation scheme, a large dataset covering multiple topics - each having their own families of claims and replies - and use these to pose two concrete challenges as well as the results achieved by participants on these challenges.
Despite the increasing use of social media platforms for information and news gathering, its unmoderated nature often leads to the emergence and spread of rumours, i.e. pieces of information that are unverified at the time of posting. At the same time, the openness of social media platforms provides opportunities to study how users share and discuss rumours, and to explore how natural language processing and data mining techniques may be used to find ways of determining their veracity. In this survey we introduce and discuss two types of rumours that circulate on social media; long-standing rumours that circulate for long periods of time, and newly-emerging rumours spawned during fast-paced events such as breaking news, where reports are released piecemeal and often with an unverified status in their early stages. We provide an overview of research into social media rumours with the ultimate goal of developing a rumour classification system that consists of four components: rumour detection, rumour tracking, rumour stance classification and rumour veracity classification. We delve into the approaches presented in the scientific literature for the development of each of these four components. We summarise the efforts and achievements so far towards the development of rumour classification systems and conclude with suggestions for avenues for future research in social media mining for detection and resolution of rumours.
Social media and data mining are increasingly being used to analyse political and societal issues. Here we undertake the classification of social media users as supporting or opposing ongoing independence movements in their territories. Independence movements occur in territories whose citizens have conflicting national identities; users with opposing national identities will then support or oppose the sense of being part of an independent nation that differs from the officially recognised country. We describe a methodology that relies on users' self-reported location to build large-scale datasets for three territories -- Catalonia, the Basque Country and Scotland. An analysis of these datasets shows that homophily plays an important role in determining who people connect with, as users predominantly choose to follow and interact with others from the same national identity. We show that a classifier relying on users' follow networks can achieve accurate, language-independent classification performances ranging from 85% to 97% for the three territories.
Social media and user-generated content (UGC) are increasingly important features of journalistic work in a number of different ways. However, their use presents major challenges, not least because information posted on social media is not always reliable and therefore its veracity needs to be checked before it can be considered as fit for use in the reporting of news. We report on the results of a series of in-depth ethnographic studies of journalist work practices undertaken as part of the requirements gathering for a prototype of a social media verification 'dashboard' and its subsequent evaluation. We conclude with some reflections upon the broader implications of our findings for the design of tools to support journalistic work.
Breaking news leads to situations of fast-paced reporting in social media, producing all kinds of updates related to news stories, albeit with the caveat that some of those early updates tend to be rumours, i.e., information with an unverified status at the time of posting. Flagging information that is unverified can be helpful to avoid the spread of information that may turn out to be false. Detection of rumours can also feed a rumour tracking system that ultimately determines their veracity. In this paper we introduce a novel approach to rumour detection that learns from the sequential dynamics of reporting during breaking news in social media to detect rumours in new stories. Using Twitter datasets collected during five breaking news stories, we experiment with Conditional Random Fields as a sequential classifier that leverages context learnt during an event for rumour detection, which we compare with the state-of-the-art rumour detection system as well as other baselines. In contrast to existing work, our classifier does not need to observe tweets querying a piece of information to deem it a rumour, but instead we detect rumours from the tweet alone by exploiting context learnt during the event. Our classifier achieves competitive performance, beating the state-of-the-art classifier that relies on querying tweets with improved precision and recall, as well as outperforming our best baseline with nearly 40% improvement in terms of F1 score. The scale and diversity of our experiments reinforces the generalisability of our classifier.
Rumour stance classification, the task that determines if each tweet in a collection discussing a rumour is supporting, denying, questioning or simply commenting on the rumour, has been attracting substantial interest. Here we introduce a novel approach that makes use of the sequence of transitions observed in tree-structured conversation threads in Twitter. The conversation threads are formed by harvesting users' replies to one another, which results in a nested tree-like structure. Previous work addressing the stance classification task has treated each tweet as a separate unit. Here we analyse tweets by virtue of their position in a sequence and test two sequential classifiers, Linear-Chain CRF and Tree CRF, each of which makes different assumptions about the conversational structure. We experiment with eight Twitter datasets, collected during breaking news, and show that exploiting the sequential structure of Twitter conversations achieves significant improvements over the non-sequential methods. Our work is the first to model Twitter conversations as a tree structure in this manner, introducing a novel way of tackling NLP tasks on Twitter conversations.
Social media tend to be rife with rumours while new reports are released piecemeal during breaking news. Interestingly, one can mine multiple reactions expressed by social media users in those situations, exploring their stance towards rumours, ultimately enabling the flagging of highly disputed rumours as being potentially false. In this work, we set out to develop an automated, supervised classifier that uses multi-task learning to classify the stance expressed in each individual tweet in a rumourous conversation as either supporting, denying or questioning the rumour. Using a classifier based on Gaussian Processes, and exploring its effectiveness on two datasets with very different characteristics and varying distributions of stances, we show that our approach consistently outperforms competitive baseline classifiers. Our classifier is especially effective in estimating the distribution of different types of stance associated with a given rumour, which we set forth as a desired characteristic for a rumour-tracking system that will warn both ordinary users of Twitter and professional news practitioners when a rumour is being rebutted.
In contrast to much previous work that has focused on location classification of tweets restricted to a specific country, here we undertake the task in a broader context by classifying global tweets at the country level, which is so far unexplored in a real-time scenario. We analyse the extent to which a tweet's country of origin can be determined by making use of eight tweet-inherent features for classification. Furthermore, we use two datasets, collected a year apart from each other, to analyse the extent to which a model trained from historical tweets can still be leveraged for classification of new tweets. With classification experiments on all 217 countries in our datasets, as well as on the top 25 countries, we offer some insights into the best use of tweet-inherent features for an accurate country-level classification of tweets. We find that the use of a single feature, such as the use of tweet content alone -- the most widely used feature in previous work -- leaves much to be desired. Choosing an appropriate combination of both tweet content and metadata can actually lead to substantial improvements of between 20\% and 50\%. We observe that tweet content, the user's self-reported location and the user's real name, all of which are inherent in a tweet and available in a real-time scenario, are particularly useful to determine the country of origin. We also experiment on the applicability of a model trained on historical tweets to classify new tweets, finding that the choice of a particular combination of features whose utility does not fade over time can actually lead to comparable performance, avoiding the need to retrain. However, the difficulty of achieving accurate classification increases slightly for countries with multiple commonalities, especially for English and Spanish speaking countries.
Nov 25 2015 cs.SI
As breaking news unfolds people increasingly rely on social media to stay abreast of the latest updates. The use of social media in such situations comes with the caveat that new information being released piecemeal may encourage rumours, many of which remain unverified long after their point of release. Little is known, however, about the dynamics of the life cycle of a social media rumour. In this paper we present a methodology that has enabled us to collect, identify and annotate a dataset of 330 rumour threads (4,842 tweets) associated with 9 newsworthy events. We analyse this dataset to understand how users spread, support, or deny rumours that are later proven true or false, by distinguishing two levels of status in a rumour life cycle i.e., before and after its veracity status is resolved. The identification of rumours associated with each event, as well as the tweet that resolved each rumour as true or false, was performed by a team of journalists who tracked the events in real time. Our study shows that rumours that are ultimately proven true tend to be resolved faster than those that turn out to be false. Whilst one can readily see users denying rumours once they have been debunked, users appear to be less capable of distinguishing true from false rumours when their veracity remains in question. In fact, we show that the prevalent tendency for users is to support every unverified rumour. We also analyse the role of different types of users, finding that highly reputable users such as news organisations endeavour to post well-grounded statements, which appear to be certain and accompanied by evidence. Nevertheless, these often prove to be unverified pieces of information that give rise to false rumours. Our study reinforces the need for developing robust machine learning techniques that can provide assistance for assessing the veracity of rumours.
Inspired by a European project, PHEME, that requires the close analysis of Twitter-based conversations in order to look at the spread of rumors via social media, this paper has two objectives. The first of these is to take the analysis of microblogs back to first principles and lay out what microblog analysis should look like as a foundational programme of work. The other is to describe how this is of fundamental relevance to Human-Computer Interaction's interest in grasping the constitution of people's interactions with technology within the social order. Our critical finding is that, despite some surface similarities, Twitter-based conversations are a wholly distinct social phenomenon requiring an independent analysis that treats them as unique phenomena in their own right, rather than as another species of conversation that can be handled within the framework of existing Conversation Analysis. This motivates the argument that Microblog Analysis be established as a foundationally independent programme, examining the organizational characteristics of microblogging from the ground up. We articulate how aspects of this approach have already begun to shape our design activities within the PHEME project.
The spread of false rumours during emergencies can jeopardise the well-being of citizens as they are monitoring the stream of news from social media to stay abreast of the latest updates. In this paper, we describe the methodology we have developed within the PHEME project for the collection and sampling of conversational threads, as well as the tool we have developed to facilitate the annotation of these threads so as to identify rumourous ones. We describe the annotation task conducted on threads collected during the 2014 Ferguson unrest and we present and analyse our findings. Our results show that we can collect effectively social media rumours and identify multiple rumours associated with a range of stories that would have been hard to identify by relying on existing techniques that need manual input of rumour-specific keywords.
Social spam produces a great amount of noise on social media services such as Twitter, which reduces the signal-to-noise ratio that both end users and data mining applications observe. Existing techniques on social spam detection have focused primarily on the identification of spam accounts by using extensive historical and network-based data. In this paper we focus on the detection of spam tweets, which optimises the amount of data that needs to be gathered by relying only on tweet-inherent features. This enables the application of the spam detection system to a large set of tweets in a timely fashion, potentially applicable in a real-time or near real-time setting. Using two large hand-labelled datasets of tweets containing spam, we study the suitability of five classification algorithms and four different feature sets to the social spam detection task. Our results show that, by using the limited set of features readily available in a tweet, we can achieve encouraging results which are competitive when compared against existing spammer detection systems that make use of additional, costly user features. Our study is the first that attempts at generalising conclusions on the optimal classifiers and sets of features for social spam detection over different datasets.