Accepted Papers

Quantifying and minimizing risk of conflict in social networks

Xi Chen (Dept. of Electronics and Information Systems, IDLab, Ghent University); Jefrey Lijffijt (Dept. of Electronics and Information Systems, IDLab, Ghent University); Tijl De Bie (Dept. of Electronics and Information Systems, IDLab, Ghent University)

Controversy, disagreement, conflict, polarization and opinion divergence in social networks have been the subject of much recent research. In particular, researchers have addressed the question of how such concepts can be quantified given people’s prior opinions, and how they can be optimized by influencing the opinion of a small number of people or by editing the network’s connectivity.

Here, rather than optimizing such concepts given a specific set of prior opinions, we study whether they can be optimized in the average case and in the worst case over all sets of prior opinions. In particular, we derive the worst-case and average-case conflict risk of networks, and we propose algorithms for optimizing these. For some measures of conflict, these are non-convex optimization problems with many local minima. We provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of the nature of some of these local minima, and show how they are related to existing organizational structures.

Empirical results show how a small number of edits quickly decreases its conflict risk, both average-case and worst-case. Furthermore, it shows that minimizing average-case conflict risk often does not reduce worst-case conflict risk. Minimizing worst-case conflict risk on the other hand, while computationally more challenging, is generally effective at minimizing both worst-case as well as average-case conflict risk.

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