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Taking sides: user classification for informal online political discourse

Robert Malouf (Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA)
Tony Mullen (Department of Computer Science, Tsuda College, Tokyo, Japan)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 4 April 2008

Abstract

Purpose

To evaluate and extend, existing natural language processing techniques into the domain of informal online political discussions.

Design/methodology/approach

A database of postings from a US political discussion site was collected, along with self‐reported political orientation data for the users. A variety of sentiment analysis, text classification, and social network analysis methods were applied to the postings and evaluated against the users' self‐descriptions.

Findings

Purely text‐based methods performed poorly, but could be improved using techniques which took into account the users' position in the online community.

Research limitations/implications

The techniques we applied here are fairly simple, and more sophisticated learning algorithms may yield better results for text‐based classification.

Practical implications

This work suggests that social network analysis is an important tool for performing natural language processing tasks with informal web texts.

Originality/value

This research extends sentiment analysis to a new subject domain (US politics) and a new text genre (informal online discusssions).

Keywords

Citation

Malouf, R. and Mullen, T. (2008), "Taking sides: user classification for informal online political discourse", Internet Research, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 177-190. https://doi.org/10.1108/10662240810862239

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited