Uncertainty about models and data is ubiquitous in the computational social sciences, and it creates a need for robust social network algorithms, which can simultaneously provide guarantees across a spectrum of models and parameter set-tings. We begin an investigation into this broad domain by studying robust algorithms for the Influence Maximization problem, in which the goal is to identify a set of k nodes in a social network whose joint influence on the network is maximized.

We define a Robust Influence Maximization framework wherein an algorithm is presented with a set of influence functions, typically derived from different influence models or different parameter settings for the same model. The different parameter settings could be derived from observed cascades on different topics, under different conditions, or at different times. The algorithm’s goal is to identify a set of k nodes who are simultaneously influential for all influence functions, compared to the (function-specific) optimum solutions.

We show strong approximation hardness results for this problem unless the algorithm gets to select at least a logarithmic factor more seeds than the optimum solution. However, when enough extra seeds may be selected, we show that techniques of Krause et al. can be used to approximate the optimum robust influence to within a factor of 1 − 1/e. We evaluate this bicriteria approximation algorithm against natural heuristics on several real-world data sets. Our experiments indicate that the worst-case hardness does not necessarily translate into bad performance on real-world data sets; all algorithms perform fairly well.

Filed under: Graph Mining and Social Networks