CS Colloquium: Hongning Wang (Tsinghua University)
How Bad is Top-K Recommendation under Competing Content Creators?
Abstract: Content creators compete for exposure on recommendation platforms, and such strategic behavior leads to a dynamic shift over the content distribution. However, how the creators’ competition impacts user welfare and how the relevance-driven recommendation influences the dynamics in the long run are still largely unknown.
Our recent work provides theoretical insights into these research questions. We model the creators’ competition under the assumptions that: 1) the platform employs an innocuous top-K recommendation policy; 2) user decisions follow the Random Utility model; 3) content creators compete for user engagement and, without knowing their utility function in hindsight, apply arbitrary no-regret learning algorithms to update their strategies. We study the user welfare guarantee through the lens of Price of Anarchy and show that the fraction of user welfare loss due to creator competition is always upper bounded by a small constant depending on K and randomness in user decisions; we also prove the tightness of this bound. Our result discloses an intrinsic merit of the myopic approach to the recommendation, i.e., relevance-driven matching performs reasonably well in the long run, as long as users’ decisions involve randomness and the platform provides reasonably many alternatives to its users.
Bio: Dr. Hongning Wang is now an associated professor at the Department of Computer Science and Technology at Tsinghua University. Prior to that, he was the Copenhaver Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD degree in computer science at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2014. His research generally lies in the intersection among machine learning, data mining and information retrieval, with a special focus on sequential decision optimization and computational user modeling. His work has generated over 80 research papers in top venues in data mining and information retrieval areas. He is a recipient of 2016 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2020 Google Faculty Research Award, and SIGIR’2019 Best Paper Award.