Improved Target-Specific Stance Detection on Social Media Platforms by Delving Into Conversation Threads

Yupeng Li, Haorui He*, Shaonan Wang, Francis Lau, Yunya Song

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Target-specific stance detection on social media, which aims at classifying a textual data instance such as a post or a comment into a stance class of a target issue, is an emerging opinion mining paradigm of importance. An example application would be to overcome vaccine hesitancy in combating the coronavirus pandemic. Existing stance detection strategies rely merely on the individual instances which cannot always capture the expressed stance of a given target. We address a new task called conversational stance detection (CSD) which is to infer the stance toward a given target (e.g., COVID-19 vaccination) when given a data instance and its corresponding conversation thread. To carry out the task, we first propose a benchmarking CSD dataset with annotations of stances and the structures of conversation threads among the instances, which is based on six major social media platforms in Hong Kong. To infer the desired stances from both data instances and conversation threads, we propose a model called Branch-bidirectional encoder representations from transformers (BERT) that incorporates contextual information in conversation threads. Extensive experiments on our CSD dataset show that our proposed model outperforms all the baseline models that do not make use of contextual information. Specifically, it improves the F1 score by 10.3% compared with the state-of-the-art method in the SemEval-2016 Task 6 competition. This shows the potential of incorporating rich contextual information on detecting target-specific stances on social media platforms and suggests a more practical way to construct future stance detection tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3031-3042
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computational Social Systems
Issue number6
Early online date13 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Modelling and Simulation

User-Defined Keywords

  • opinion mining
  • target-specific stance detection
  • social media platform
  • Conversation threads


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