Gaps in information access in social networks

Benjamin Fish, Sorelle A. Friedler, Ashkan Bashardoust, Carlos Scheidegger, Danah Boyd, Suresh Venkatasubramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of influence maximization in social networks has largely ignored disparate effects these algorithms might have on the individuals contained in the social network. Individuals may place a high value on receiving information, e.g. job openings or advertisements for loans. While well-connected individuals at the center of the network are likely to receive the information that is being distributed through the network, poorly connected individuals are systematically less likely to receive the information, producing a gap in access to the information between individuals. In this work, we study how best to spread information in a social network while minimizing this access gap. We propose to use the maximin social welfare function as an objective function, where we maximize the minimum probability of receiving the information under an intervention. We prove that in this setting this welfare function constrains the access gap whereas maximizing the expected number of nodes reached does not. We also investigate the difficulties of using the maximin, and present hardness results and analysis for standard greedy strategies. Finally, we investigate practical ways of optimizing for the maximin, and give empirical evidence that a simple greedy-based strategy works well in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Mar 5 2019


  • Fairness
  • Influence maximization
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Gaps in information access in social networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this