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The role of hidden influentials in the diffusion of online information cascades

Raquel A Baños1, Javier Borge-Holthoefer1 and Yamir Moreno12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems (BIFI), University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 50018, Spain

2 Department of Theoretical Physics, Faculty of Sciences, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 50009, Spain

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EPJ Data Science 2013, 2:6  doi:10.1140/epjds18

Published: 26 July 2013


In a diversified context with multiple social networking sites, heterogeneous activity patterns and different user-user relations, the concept of ‘information cascade’ is all but univocal. Despite the fact that such information cascades can be defined in different ways, it is important to check whether some of the observed patterns are common to diverse contagion processes that take place on modern social media. Here, we explore one type of information cascades, namely, those that are time-constrained, related to two kinds of socially-rooted topics on Twitter. Specifically, we show that in both cases cascades sizes distribute following a fat-tailed distribution and that whether or not a cascade reaches system-wide proportions is mainly given by the presence of so-called hidden influentials. These latter nodes are not the hubs, which on the contrary, often act as firewalls for information spreading. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of complex contagion and, from a practical side, for the identification of efficient spreaders in viral phenomena.