Artificial Inflation: The True Story of Trends in Sina Weibo

Louis Yu, Sitaram Asur, Bernardo A. Huberman

There has been a tremendous rise in the growth of online social networks all over the world in recent years. This has facilitated users to generate a large amount of real-time content at an incessant rate, all competing with each other to attract enough attention and become trends. While Western online social networks such as Twitter have been well studied, characteristics of the popular Chinese microblogging network Sina Weibo have not been. In this paper, we analyze in detail the temporal aspect of trends and trend-setters in Sina Weibo, constrasting it with earlier observations on Twitter. First, we look at the formation, persistence and decay of trends and examine the key topics that trend in Sina Weibo. One of our key findings is that retweets are much more common in Sina Weibo and contribute a lot to creating trends. When we look closer, we observe that a large percentage of trends in Sina Weibo are due to the continuous retweets of a small amount of fraudulent accounts. These fake accounts are set up to artificially inflate certain posts causing them to shoot up into Sina Weibo's trending list, which are in turn displayed as the most popular topics to users.

Knowledge Graph

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