Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2185134
 
 

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Assessing the Bias in Samples of Large Online Networks


Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon


University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication

Ning Wang


University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Alejandro Rivero


University of Zaragoza

Javier Borge-Holthoefer


Qatar Computing Research Institute

Yamir Moreno


University of Zaragoza

December 4, 2012

Forthcoming in Social Networks

Abstract:     
We consider the sampling bias introduced in the study of online networks when collecting data through publicly available APIs (application programming interfaces). We assess differences between three samples of Twitter activity; the empirical context is given by political protests taking place in May 2012. We track online communication around these protests for the period of one month, and reconstruct the network of mentions and re-tweets according to the search and the streaming APIs, and to different filtering parameters. We find that smaller samples do not offer an accurate picture of peripheral activity; we also find that the bias is greater for the network of mentions, partly because of the higher influence of snowballing in identifying relevant nodes. We discuss the implications of this bias for the study of diffusion dynamics and political communication through social media, and advocate the need for more uniform sampling procedures to study online communication.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 45

Keywords: social media, Twitter, political communication, social protests, social networking sites, measurement error, graph comparison

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Date posted: December 4, 2012 ; Last revised: January 14, 2014

Suggested Citation

Gonzalez-Bailon, Sandra and Wang, Ning and Rivero, Alejandro and Borge-Holthoefer, Javier and Moreno, Yamir, Assessing the Bias in Samples of Large Online Networks (December 4, 2012). Forthcoming in Social Networks. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2185134 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2185134

Contact Information

Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )
Philadelphia, PA
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.asc.upenn.edu/sgonzalezbailon/
Ning Wang
University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )
1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom
Alejandro Rivero
University of Zaragoza ( email )
Gran Via 2
50005 Zaragoza
Spain
Javier Borge-Holthoefer
Qatar Computing Research Institute ( email )
Tornado Tower
13th Floor
Doha, 5825
Qatar
Yamir Moreno
University of Zaragoza ( email )
Gran Via 2
50005 Zaragoza
Spain
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