Socialbots on Fire: Modeling Adversarial Behaviors of Socialbots via Multi-Agent Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning

Thai Le, Long Tran-Thanh, Dongwon Lee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Socialbots are software-driven user accounts on social platforms, acting autonomously (mimicking human behavior), with the aims to influence the opinions of other users or spread targeted misinformation for particular goals. As socialbots undermine the ecosystem of social platforms, they are often considered harmful. As such, there have been several computational efforts to auto-detect the socialbots. However, to our best knowledge, the adversarial nature of these socialbots has not yet been studied. This begs a question "can adversaries, controlling socialbots, exploit AI techniques to their advantage?"To this question, we successfully demonstrate that indeed it is possible for adversaries to exploit computational learning mechanism such as reinforcement learning (RL) to maximize the influence of socialbots while avoiding being detected. We first formulate the adversarial socialbot learning as a cooperative game between two functional hierarchical RL agents. While one agent curates a sequence of activities that can avoid the detection, the other agent aims to maximize network influence by selectively connecting with right users. Our proposed policy networks train with a vast amount of synthetic graphs and generalize better than baselines on unseen real-life graphs both in terms of maximizing network influence (up to +18%) and sustainable stealthiness (up to +40% undetectability) under a strong bot detector (90% detection accuracy). During inference, the complexity of our approach scales linearly, independent of a network's structure and the virality of news. This makes our attack very practical in a real-life setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWWW 2022 - Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages545-554
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450390965
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 25 2022
Event31st ACM World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2022 - Virtual, Online, France
Duration: Apr 25 2022Apr 29 2022

Publication series

NameWWW 2022 - Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022

Conference

Conference31st ACM World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2022
Country/TerritoryFrance
CityVirtual, Online
Period4/25/224/29/22

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Software

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