The Pod People: Understanding Manipulation of Social Media Popularity via Reciprocity Abuse

Janith Weerasinghe, Bailey Flanigan, Aviel Stein, Damon McCoy, Rachel Greenstadt

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    Abstract

    Online Social Network (OSN) Users' demand to increase their account popularity has driven the creation of an underground ecosystem that provides services or techniques to help users manipulate content curation algorithms. One method of subversion that has recently emerged occurs when users form groups, called pods, to facilitate reciprocity abuse, where each member reciprocally interacts with content posted by other members of the group. We collect 1.8 million Instagram posts that were posted in pods hosted on Telegram. We first summarize the properties of these pods and how they are used, uncovering that they are easily discoverable by Google search and have a low barrier to entry. We then create two machine learning models for detecting Instagram posts that have gained interaction through two different kinds of pods, achieving 0.91 and 0.94 AUC, respectively. Finally, we find that pods are effective tools for increasing users' Instagram popularity, we estimate that pod utilization leads to a significantly increased level of likely organic comment interaction on users' subsequent posts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThe Web Conference 2020 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2020
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
    Pages1874-1884
    Number of pages11
    ISBN (Electronic)9781450370233
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 20 2020
    Event29th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2020 - Taipei, Taiwan, Province of China
    Duration: Apr 20 2020Apr 24 2020

    Publication series

    NameThe Web Conference 2020 - Proceedings of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2020

    Conference

    Conference29th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2020
    CountryTaiwan, Province of China
    CityTaipei
    Period4/20/204/24/20

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Networks and Communications
    • Software

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