Epidemic model for information diffusion in web forums: experiments in marketing exchange and political dialog

Jiyoung Woo, Hsinchun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


As social media has become more prevalent, its influence on business, politics, and society has become significant. Due to easy access and interaction between large numbers of users, information diffuses in an epidemic style on the web. Understanding the mechanisms of information diffusion through these new publication methods is important for political and marketing purposes. Among social media, web forums, where people in online communities disseminate and receive information, provide a good environment for examining information diffusion. In this paper, we model topic diffusion in web forums using the epidemiology model, the susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) model, frequently used in previous research to analyze both disease outbreaks and knowledge diffusion. The model was evaluated on a large longitudinal dataset from the web forum of a major retail company and from a general political discussion forum. The fitting results showed that the SIR model is a plausible model to describe the diffusion process of a topic. This research shows that epidemic models can expand their application areas to topic discussion on the web, particularly social media such as web forums.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number66
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016



  • Contagion
  • Epidemic model
  • Information diffusion
  • Social media
  • Web forum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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