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The influence maximization paradigm has been used by researchers in various fields in order to study how information spreads in social networks. While previously the attention was mostly on efficiency, more recently fairness issues have been taken into account in this scope. In the present paper, we propose to use randomization as a mean for achieving fairness. While this general idea is not new, it has not been applied in this area.
Similar to previous works like Fish et al. (WWW ’19) and Tsang et al. (IJCAI ’19), we study the maximin criterion for (group) fairness. In contrast to their work however, we model the problem in such a way that, when choosing the seed sets, probabilistic strategies are possible rather than only deterministic ones. We introduce two different variants of this probabilistic problem, one that entails probabilistic strategies over nodes (node-based problem) and a second one that entails probabilistic strategies over sets of nodes (set-based problem). After analyzing the relation between the two probabilistic problems, we show that, while the original deterministic maximin problem was inapproximable, both probabilistic variants permit approximation algorithms that achieve a constant multiplicative factor of 1 − 1/e minus an additive arbitrarily small error that is due to the simulation of the information spread. For the node-based problem, the approximation is achieved by observing that a polynomial-sized linear program approximates the problem well. For the set-based problem, we show that a multiplicative-weight routine can yield the approximation result.
For an experimental study, we provide implementations of multiplicative-weight routines for both the set-based and the node-based problems and compare the achieved fairness values to existing methods. Maybe non-surprisingly, we show that the ex-ante values, i.e., minimum expected value of an individual (or group) to obtain the information, of the computed probabilistic strategies are significantly larger than the (ex-post) fairness values of previous methods. This indicates that studying fairness via randomization is a worthwhile path to follow. Interestingly and maybe more surprisingly, we observe that even the ex-post fairness values, i.e., fairness values of sets sampled according to the probabilistic strategies computed by our routines, dominate over the fairness achieved by previous methods on many of the instances tested.