Computational Verification Challenges in Social Media
Computational Verification in Social Media
Christina Boididou1, Symeon Papadopoulos1, Yiannis Kompatsiaris1,
Steve Schifferes2, Nic Newman2
1Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH) – Information Technologies Institute (ITI)
2City University London – Journalism Department
WWW’14, April 8, Seoul, Korea
How trustworthy is Web multimedia?
captured April 2011 by WSJ
heavily tweeted during Hurricane Sandy
(29 Oct 2012)
Tweeted by multiple sources &
retweeted multiple times
Original online at:
Disseminating (real?) content on Twitter
• Twitter is the platform for sharing newsworthy
content in real-time.
• Pressure for airing stories very quickly leaves very
little room for verification.
• Very often, even well-reputed news providers fall for
fake news content.
• Here, we examine the feasibility and challenges of
conducting verification of shared media content with
the help of a machine learning framework.
Related: Web & OSN Spam
• Web spam is a relatively old problem, wherein the spammer
tries to “trick” search engines into thinking that a webpage is
high-quality, while it’s not (Gyongyi & Garcia-Molina, 2005).
• Spam revived in the age of social media. For instance,
spammers try to promote irrelevant links using popular
hashtags (Benevenuto et al., 2010; Stringhini et al., 2010).
Mainly focused on characterizing/detecting sources of spam
(websites, twitter accounts) rather than spam content.
Z. Gyongyi and H. Garcia-Molina. Web spam taxonomy. In First international workshop on
adversarial information retrieval on the web (AIRWeb), 2005
F. Benevenuto, G. Magno, T. Rodrigues, and V. Almeida. Detecting spammers on twitter. In
Collaboration, Electronic messaging, Anti-abuse and Spam conference (CEAS), volume 6, 2010
G. Stringhini, C. Kruegel, and G. Vigna. Detecting spammers on social networks. In Proceedings of
the 26th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference, pages 1–9. ACM, 2010.
Related: Diffusion of Spam
• In many cases, the propagation patterns between
real and fake content are different, e.g. in the case of
the large Chile earthquakes (Mendoza et al., 2010)
• Using a few nodes of the network as “monitors”, one
could try to identify sources of fake rumours (Seo
and Mohapatra, 2012).
Still, such methods are very hard to use in real-time
settings or very soon after an event starts.
M. Mendoza, B. Poblete, and C. Castillo. Twitter under crisis: Can we trust what we rt? In
Proceedings of the first Workshop on Social Media Analytics, pages 71–79. ACM, 2010
E. Seo, P. Mohapatra, and T. Abdelzaher. Identifying rumors and their sources in social networks.
In SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, 2012
Related: Assessing Content Credibility
• Four types of features are considered: message,
user, topic and propagation (Castillo et al., 2011).
• Classify tweets with images as fake or not using a
machine learning approach (Gupta et al., 2013)
Reports an accuracy of ~97%, which is a gross over-
estimation of expected real-world accuracy.
C. Castillo, M. Mendoza, and B. Poblete. Information credibility on twitter. In Proceedings of the
20th international conference on World Wide Web, pages 675–684. ACM, 2011.
A. Gupta, H. Lamba, P. Kumaraguru, and A. Joshi. Faking sandy: characterizing and identifying
fake images on twitter during hurricane sandy. In Proceedings of the 22nd international
conference on World Wide Web companion, pages 729–736, 2013
• Distinguish between fake and real content shared on
Twitter using a supervised approach
• Provide closer to reality estimates of automatic
• Explore methodological issues with respect to
evaluating classifier performance
• Create reusable resources
– Fake (and real) tweets (incl. images) corpus
– Open-source implementation
• Corpus Creation
– Topsy API
– Near-duplicate image detection
• Feature Extraction
– Content-based features
– User-based features
• Classifier Building & Evaluation
– Independent photo sets
– Cross-dataset training
• Define a set of keywords K around an event of interest.
• Use Topsy API (keyword-based search) and keep only
tweets containing images T.
• Using independent online sources, define a set of fake
images IF and a set of real ones IR.
• Select TC ⊂ T of tweets that contain any of the images in
IF or IR.
• Use near-duplicate visual search (VLAD+SURF) to extend
TC with tweets that contain near-duplicate images.
• Manually check that the returned near-duplicates indeed
correspond to the images of IF or IR.
# User Feature
2 Number of friends
3 Number of followers
4 Number of followers/number of friends
5 Number of times the user was listed
6 If the user’s status contains URL
7 If the user is verified or not
# Content Feature
1 Length of the tweet
2 Number of words
3 Number of exclamation marks
4 Number of quotation marks
5 Contains emoticon (happy/sad)
6 Number of uppercase characters
7 Number of hashtags
8 Number of mentions
9 Number of pronouns
10 Number of URLs
11 Number of sentiment words
12 Number of retweets
Training and Testing the Classifier
• Care should be taken to make sure that no
knowledge from the training set enters the
• This is NOT the case when using standard
The Problem with Cross-Validation
Training/Test tweets are randomly selected.
One of the reference fake images Multiple tweets per reference image.
Independence of Training-Test Set
Training/Test tweets are constraint to correspond to
different reference images.
• In the most unfavourable case, the dataset used for
training should refer to a different event than the
one used for testing.
• Simulates real-world scenario of a breaking story,
where no prior information is available to news
– Different event, same domain
– Different event, different domain (very challenging!)
– Hurricane Sandy
– Boston Marathon bombings
• Evaluation of two sets of features
• Evaluation of different classifier settings
Dataset – Hurricane Sandy
Natural disaster held around the USA from October 22nd to 31st, 2012. Fake
images and content, such as sharks inside New York and flooded Statue of
Liberty, went viral.
Hurricane Sandy #hurricaneSandy
Dataset – Boston Marathon Bombings
The bombings occurred on 15 April, 2013 during the Boston Marathon
when two pressure cooker bombs exploded at 2:49 pm EDT, killing three
people and injuring an estimated 264 others.
Boston Marathon #bostonMarathon
Boston bombings #bostonbombings
Boston suspect #bostonSuspect
Sunil Tripathi #prayForBoston
Tweets with other image URLs 343939
Tweets with fake images 10758
Tweets with real images 3540
Hurricane Sandy Boston Marathon
Tweets with other image URLs 112449
Tweets with fake images 281
Tweets with real images 460
Prediction accuracy (1)
• 10-fold cross validation results using different classifiers
Prediction accuracy (2)
• Results using different training and testing set from the
Hurricane Sandy dataset
• Results using Hurricane Sandy for training and Boston
Marathon for testing
• Real tweet
My friend's sister's Trampolene in Long Island.
Classified as real
• Real tweet
23rd street repost from @wendybarton
Classified as fake
• Fake tweet
Sharks in people's front yard #hurricane #sandy #bringing
#sharks #newyork #crazy http://t.co/PVewUIE1
Classified as fake
• Fake tweet
Statue of Liberty + crushing waves. http://t.co/7F93HuHV
Classified as real
– Data Collection: (a) Fake content is often removed (either
by user or by OSN admin), (b) API limitations make very
difficult the collection after an event takes place
– Classifier accuracy: Purely content-based classification can
only be of limited use, especially when used in a context of
a different event. However, one could imagine that
separate classifiers might be built for certain types of
incidents, cf. AIDR use for the recent Chile Earthquake
• Future Work
– Extend features: (a) geographic location of user (wrt.
location of incident), (b) time the tweet was posted
– Extend dataset: More events, more fake examples
Help us make it bigger!
• Get in touch:
@sympapadopoulos / firstname.lastname@example.org
@CMpoi / email@example.com
Sample fake and real images in Sandy
• Fake pictures shared on social media
• Real pictures shared on social media