ABSTRACT: We introduce a general stochastic model for the spread of rumours, and derive mean-field equations that describe the dynamics of the model on complex social networks (in particular, those mediated by the Internet). We use analytical and numerical solutions of these equations to examine the threshold behaviour and dynamics of the model on several models of such networks: random graphs, uncorrelated scale-free networks and scale-free networks with assortative degree correlations. We show that in both homogeneous networks and random graphs the model exhibits a critical threshold in the rumour spreading rate below which a rumour cannot propagate in the system. In the case of scale-free networks, on the other hand, this threshold becomes vanishingly small in the limit of infinite system size. We find that the initial rate at which a rumour spreads is much higher in scale-free networks than in random graphs, and that the rate at which the spreading proceeds on scale-free networks is further increased when assortative degree correlations are introduced. The impact of degree correlations on the final fraction of nodes that ever hears a rumour, however, depends on the interplay between network topology and the rumour spreading rate. Our results show that scale-free social networks are prone to the spreading of rumours, just as they are to the spreading of infections. They are relevant to the spreading dynamics of chain emails, viral advertising and large-scale information dissemination algorithms on the Internet.
Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications. 07/2008;