Stance classification in Rumours as a Sequential Task Exploiting the Tree Structure of Social Media Conversations

Arkaitz Zubiaga, Elena Kochkina, Maria Liakata, Rob Procter, Michal Lukasik

COLING. 2016.

Rumour stance classification, the task that determines if each tweet in a collection discussing a rumour is supporting, denying, questioning or simply commenting on the rumour, has been attracting substantial interest. Here we introduce a novel approach that makes use of the sequence of transitions observed in tree-structured conversation threads in Twitter. The conversation threads are formed by harvesting users' replies to one another, which results in a nested tree-like structure. Previous work addressing the stance classification task has treated each tweet as a separate unit. Here we analyse tweets by virtue of their position in a sequence and test two sequential classifiers, Linear-Chain CRF and Tree CRF, each of which makes different assumptions about the conversational structure. We experiment with eight Twitter datasets, collected during breaking news, and show that exploiting the sequential structure of Twitter conversations achieves significant improvements over the non-sequential methods. Our work is the first to model Twitter conversations as a tree structure in this manner, introducing a novel way of tackling NLP tasks on Twitter conversations.

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