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Analyzing Twitter networks using graph embeddings: an application to the British case

Abstract

Embeddings have gained traction in the social sciences in recent years. Existing work focuses on text-as-data to estimate word embeddings. In this paper, we turn to graph embeddings as a tool whose use has been overlooked in the analysis of social networks. Graph embeddings have two primary uses. First, to encode users and their interactions onto a single vector. Second, graph embeddings can be used as inputs for machine-learning classifiers. In this paper, we use the British political Twitter to illustrate both uses of graph embeddings. We encode users’ partisanship. Furthermore, we use an SVM and a NN to estimate the partisan proximity of Twitter users. Results suggest that graph embeddings yield high precision predictions.

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Notes

  1. There are several legislators whose Twitter activity puts them below this threshold. This decreases our number of legislators to 561.

  2. https://github.com/VHRanger/graph2vec.

  3. Results are robust to changes in dimensions (20, 30, 40, 50, 100, and 150). For computational parsimony, we use ten dimensions. Results using different dimensions are available authors.

  4. We acknowledge that legislators tweet about other topics as well. However, their utterances tend to be dominated by political matters.

  5. We define outliers as users whose Twitter bio identifies them as Labour and Liberal Democrats but our embedding, based on their Twitter activities, puts them in the vicinity of the Conservatives. To be sure, there are outliers in other areas of the graph. However, the observation of the graph suggests that the highlighted area has a particularly high number of outliers.

  6. Results and technical notes are available from the authors.

  7. N Outliers: 103 N Conservative: 246 N Tweets: 3003.

  8. Tables S2–S5 in the online appendix show results per party.

  9. We use ‘predict_proba’ property of the SVC function in the scikit-learn.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Pablo Barberá, Michael Laver, Christopher Cochrane, and Carsten Schwemmer for helpful comments of early drafts. The usual disclaimer applies.

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Correspondence to Jorge M. Fernandes.

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Won, M., Fernandes, J.M. Analyzing Twitter networks using graph embeddings: an application to the British case. J Comput Soc Sc 5, 253–263 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42001-021-00128-6

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Keywords

  • Graph embeddings
  • Social networks
  • Social media
  • Twitter
  • Political map
  • UK