Detecting customer-to-customer trends (without social media data) to optimize promotions – Georgia Perakis

MIT Sloan Prof. Georgia Perakis

From Huffington Post

Every year, there are a few items of clothing that become hot. For example, last fall, a Zara coat seemed to become a “must have” item. The coat even had its own Instagrampage with more than 8,000 followers. Many factors contribute to this phenomenon like celebrities — and people with large social media followings — wearing the “hot” item.

When we have detailed social media data, it is relatively easy to identify patterns of influence to predict these trends. But what happens when we don’t have social media data? After all, social media platforms charge tremendous fees for access to that information. Can we use traditional data to detect underlying trends between groups of consumers and improve demand estimation? If so, can we use that information to optimize personalized promotions to increase profits, and also to present “the right individual with the right item at the right price?”

In a recent study, I looked at these questions with MIT Operations Research Center PhD students Lennart Baardman and Tamar Cohen and collaborators from Oracle Retail. We found that the answer to both questions is: yes. We began our study by building a customer demand model and algorithm that incorporates customer-to-customer trends or influences. We then applied the information about customer demand to make promotion decisions. With this method, profits increased between 5-12%. The model can be used by any retailer of any size for any product.

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How Lies Spread Online – Sinan Aral

From The New York Times

The spread of misinformation on social media is an alarming phenomenon that scientists have yet to fully understand. While the data show that false claims are increasing online, most studies have analyzed only small samples or the spread of individual fake stories.

My colleagues Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and I set out to change that. We recently analyzed the diffusion of all of the major true and false stories that spread on Twitter from its inception in 2006 to 2017. Our data included approximately 126,000 Twitter “cascades” (unbroken chains of retweets with a common, singular origin) involving stories spread by three million people more than four and a half million times.

Disturbingly, we found that false stories spread significantly more than did true ones. Our findings were published on Thursday in the journal Science.

We started by identifying thousands of true and false stories, using information from six independent fact-checking organizations, including Snopes, PolitiFact and Factcheck.org. These organizations exhibited considerable agreement — between 95 percent and 98 percent — on the truth or falsity of these stories. Read More »

Taking steps to reduce foreign social-media meddling in our elections – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From Huffington Post

One could almost pity the executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter as they were grilled on Capitol Hill earlier this week by senators upset about Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, via the posting of cleverly worded propaganda ads and messages on social-media sites.

After all, how do you detect – let alone stop – a small group of determined foreign nationals manipulating and taking advantage of what’s supposed to be open, free-flowing Internet platforms idealistically designed to allow billions of people across the globe to voice their thoughts on everything from world politics to the type off pigeons in Trafalgar Square?

Of course, the Facebook, Google and Twitter executives at the Senate hearing earlier this week bowed their heads, expressed remorse and vowed to do better in combating the threat of foreign interference in our democratic elections.

But the question is: Can they do better? Is it possible? Remember: Facebook alone acknowledges that it received only about $100,000 in paid ads by those it later learned were tied to various Russian groups, but those ads were still seen by about 10 million people, according to media reports.

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Just the facts: Information access can shrink political divide – Evan Apfelbaum & Erik Duhaime

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Evan Apfelbaum

MIT Sloan Ph.D. student Erik Duhaime

From The Hill

Political polarization in the U.S. is at its highest level in decades. This isn’t surprising, especially in the wake of the recent presidential election.

It’s hard to go on social media, much less cable news these days and not see reports that support one political side and vilify the other. Is there any hope for bringing the country closer together? We think so.

In a recent study, we found that the way information is presented can influence political polarization. When it is presented in a way that engages people in an objective analysis of the information at hand, political polarization can decrease. Yet when the same information provokes people to think about their relevant political preferences, people remain polarized.

In other words, people might moderate their views when they have more information on how a contentious policy works, but not if they’re busy thinking about what they want or why they want it.

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Do you think fake news can be killed with the truth? Think again–Sharon Pian Chan, Andre Alfred

Andre Alfred, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Andre Alfred, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Sharon Pian Chan, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Sharon Pian Chan, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

From Art + marketing

The presidential election exposed deep divisions in the country, among our families, friends, in the workplace and in the classroom.

Buzzfeed’s recent findings about the power of fake news is particularly troubling. The 20-most read fake stories got more traffic than the top 20 stories reported by credible news organizations that verify facts and validate stories.

In fact, people writing fake news are making more money than journalists committed to reporting the truth, according to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who talked to a fake news site in Seattle called Bipartisan Report.

Fake news sent a man with an assault rifle to a pizza shop in Washington, D.C., searching for a fictional child sex ring connected to Hillary Clinton. (Check out The Washington Post’s story.)

What are the forces behind the creation and, let’s face it, widespread consumption of lies?

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