Prevalence Estimation in Social Media Using Black Box Classifiers

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Many problems in computational social science require estimating the proportion of items with a particular property. This counting task is called prevalence estimation or quantification. Frequently, researchers have a pre-trained classifier available to them. However, it is usually not safe to simply apply the classifier to all items and count the predictions of each class, because the test dataset may differ in important ways from the dataset on which the classifier was trained, a phenomenon called distribution shift. In addition, a second type of distribution shift may occur when one wishes to compare the prevalence between multiple datasets, such as tracking changes over time. To cope with that, some assumptions need to be made about the nature of possible distribution shifts across datasets, a process that we call extrapolation.

This tutorial will introduce an end-to-end framework for prevalence estimation using black box (pre-trained) classifiers, with a focus on social media datasets. The framework consists of a calibration phase and an extrapolation phase, aiming to address the two types of distribution shifts described above. We will provide hands-on exercises that walk the participants through solving a real world problem of quantifying positive tweets in datasets from two separate time periods. All datasets, pre-trained models, and example codes will be provided in a Jupyter notebook. After attending this tutorial, participants will be able to understand the basics of the prevalence estimation problem in social media, and construct a data analysis pipeline to conduct prevalence estimation for their projects.

17th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ACL 2023), June 2023

Access the tutorial here:

Siqi Wu, Paul Resnick