Unsupervised Model for Topic Viewpoint Discovery in Online Debates Leveraging Author Interactions


  • Amine Trabelsi University of Alberta
  • Osmar Zaiane University of Alberta




Unsupervised Viewpoint Discovery, Online Debates, Topic Viewpoint Modeling


Online debate forums provide a valuable resource for textual discussions about controversial social and political issues. Discovering the viewpoints and their discourse or arguments from such resources is important for policy and decision makers. In order to detect the stance, most of the existing methods rely on expensively obtained human annotations and propose supervised solutions. In this work, we introduce a purely unsupervised Author Interaction Topic Viewpoint model (AITV) for viewpoint identification at the post and the discourse levels. The model favors "heterophily" over "homophily" when encoding the nature of the authors' interactions in online debates. It assumes that the difference in viewpoints breeds interactions, unlike similar studies based on social network analysis, which hypothesize that similar viewpoints encourage interactions. We evaluate the model's viewpoint identification and clustering accuracies at the author and post levels. Experiments are held on six corpora about four different controversial issues, extracted from two online debate forums. AITV's results show a better performance in terms of viewpoint identification at the post level than the state-of-the-art supervised methods in terms of stance prediction, even though it is unsupervised. It also outperforms a recently proposed topic model for viewpoint discovery in social networks and achieves close results to a weakly guided unsupervised method in terms of author level viewpoint identification. Our results highlight the importance of encoding "heterophily" for purely unsupervised viewpoint identification in the context of online debates. We also carry out a brief qualitative evaluation of the discourse modeling in terms of Topic-Viewpoint word clusters. AITV shows encouraging results suggesting an accurate discovery of the viewpoints and topics' discourses.




How to Cite

Trabelsi, A., & Zaiane, O. (2018). Unsupervised Model for Topic Viewpoint Discovery in Online Debates Leveraging Author Interactions. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v12i1.15021