Changing the tune: mixtures of network models that vary in time

Published in ArXiv Preprint, 2019

Recommended citation: Arnold, N. A., Steer, B. A., Hafnaoui, I., Mondragon, R. J., Cuadrado, F., & Clegg, R. G. (2020). Moving with the Times: Investigating the Alt-Right Network Gab with Temporal Interaction Graphs. arXiv preprint arXiv:2009.08322. https://arxiv.org/abs/2009.08322

Manuscript under review

Abstract

Gab is an online social network often associated with the alt-right political movement and users barred from other networks. It presents an interesting opportunity for research because near-complete data is available from day one of the network’s creation. In this paper, we investigate the evolution of the user interaction graph, that is the graph where a link represents a user interacting with another user at a given time. We view this graph both at different times and at different timescales. The latter is achieved by using sliding windows on the graph which gives a novel perspective on social network data. The Gab network is relatively slowly growing over the period of months but subject to large bursts of arrivals over hours and days. We identify plausible events that are of interest to the Gab community associated with the most obvious such bursts. The network is characterised by interactions between ` ‘strangers’ rather than by reinforcing links between ‘friends’. Gab usage follows the diurnal cycle of the predominantly US and Europe based users. At off-peak hours the Gab interaction network fragments into sub-networks with absolutely no interaction between them. A small group of users are highly influential across larger timescales, but a substantial number of users gain influence for short periods of time. Temporal analysis at different timescales gives new insights above and beyond what could be found on static graphs.