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Identifying and Visualizing Viral Content

Though the phrase "going viral" has permeated popular culture, the concept of virality itself is surprisingly illusive, with past work failing to rigorously define, or even definitively show the existence of viral content. Our project constructs and lets users interactively explore the full chain of events whereby individual news stories, videos, images, and petitions spread from one user to the next over a social network. We then use the structure of these cascades to quantify the virality of each piece of content, allowing us to distinguish between items that gain popularity through a single, large broadcast (e.g., a popular mass media news story), and those which are passed on between multiple generations (e.g., "viral videos"). End users can browse trending viral content, search for specific content or individuals, navigate cascades to identify particularly influential individuals, and view time-lapse playbacks of how items spread between people.