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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Apr 24;16(8). pii: E1452. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16081452.

Machine Learning Methods to Predict Social Media Disaster Rumor Refuters.

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Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China.
Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China.
College of Movie and Media, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610064, China.
Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China.


This research provides a general methodology for distinguishing disaster-related anti-rumor spreaders from a non-ignorant population base, with strong connections in their social circle. Several important influencing factors are examined and illustrated. User information from the most recent posted microblog content of 3793 Sina Weibo users was collected. Natural language processing (NLP) was used for the sentiment and short text similarity analyses, and four machine learning techniques, i.e., logistic regression (LR), support vector machines (SVM), random forest (RF), and extreme gradient boosting (XGBoost) were compared on different rumor refuting microblogs; after which a valid and robust distinguishing XGBoost model was trained and validated to predict who would retweet disaster-related rumor refuting microblogs. Compared with traditional prediction variables that only access user information, the similarity and sentiment analyses of the most recent user microblog contents were found to significantly improve prediction precision and robustness. The number of user microblogs also proved to be a valuable reference for all samples during the prediction process. This prediction methodology could be possibly more useful for WeChat or Facebook as these have relatively stable closed-loop communication channels, which means that rumors are more likely to be refuted by acquaintances. Therefore, the methodology is going to be further optimized and validated on WeChat-like channels in the future. The novel rumor refuting approach presented in this research harnessed NLP for the user microblog content analysis and then used the analysis results of NLP as additional prediction variables to identify the anti-rumor spreaders. Therefore, compared to previous studies, this study presents a new and effective decision support for rumor countermeasures.


NLP; XGBoost; disaster-related; group behavior; machine learning; rumor refutation

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