Agent-Based Social Networks

Agent-Based Social Networks

Federico Bergenti (Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy), Agostino Poggi (Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy) and Michele Tomaiuolo (DII, Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch602
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Abstract

Social networking sites have deeply changed the face of the web in the last years. Although the current approach to build social networking systems is to create huge centralized systems owned by a single company, such strategy has many drawbacks, e.g., lack of privacy, lack of anonymity, risks of censorship and operating costs. Therefore, a decentralized architecture may offer several advantages, but it may involve some security and design issues that are not present in traditional social networks. This chapter has the goal of introducing social networks and how they can take advantages of a decentralized architecture and how the use of multi agent technologies help to cope with its security and design issues and, in addition, to support the creation of innovative services for its users.
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Background

Social networks can be defined as structures consisting of a finite set of actors and the relation or relations defined on them, where an actor is simply a discrete individual or a social unit (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). Social networking system are implemented as web-sites allowing users to have a profile and managing their online social network, i.e., such systems allow them to: (i) construct a profile which represents them in the system; (ii) create a list of users with whom they share a connection and (iii) navigate their list of connections and that of their friends (Ellison, 2007).

Although we agree that self-presentation and social network management are extremely important and necessary components of a social networking system, we believe that the social networking revolution is far more related to the paradigm shift that transformed most people from mere consumers of information to full-fledged information producers. Most people create information which is essentially personal and, then, it is mainly of interest for friends and acquaintances. Before the social web revolution such information used to be essentially lost in the web, while, nowadays social networking systems are able to deliver the information to the “right” people.

After the huge success of the early social networking systems, many other players came in the social networking market and nowadays hundreds of different social networking systems exist. Even if the social networking systems are greatly dissimilar in their user base and functionality, they are almost always centralized systems because of the access and implementation advantages.

A minor drawback is that scaling centralized systems to tens or hundreds of million of users is not an easy task. At any rate, we consider this drawback as a minor one, since the problem can be solved providing enough resources. However, the huge operative costs of supporting the infrastructure necessary to provide the service to millions of users can only be justified with robust business plans. While some social networking services have extremely differentiated business models (McGrath 2010), for most of them the primary source of income is advertisement and consequently they have a strong motive for: (i) using user provided data to increase performance for that purpose and (ii) even giving access to authorized commercial third parties to the raw data. This behavior poses serious threats to privacy and data protection issues, especially considering that there is no clear legislation on what uses of the user data are legitimate, and regarding the conditions for disclosing the data to third parties, especially when the subjects involved are from different countries.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multi-Agent System: A loosely coupled network of software agents that interact to solve problems that are beyond the individual capacities or knowledge of each software agent.

Privacy: The right to be secluded from the presence or view of others.

Censorship: Modification or suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a controlling body.

Peer-to-Peer System: A network based system in which each node can act as both client and server for the other ones of the system.

Software Agent: A computer program that is situated in some environment and capable of autonomous action in order to meet its design objectives.

Social Networking System: A network based system facilitating the building of social networks.

Anonymity: State of being unknown or unacknowledged to the others.

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