Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 25 Number 1 2008 pp. 49-78

Stylometric Identification in Electronic Markets: Scalability and Robustness

Abbasi, Ahmed, Hsinchun, Chen, and Nunamaker Jr, Jay F

ABSTRACT: Online reputation systems are intended to facilitate the propagation of word of mouth as a credibility scoring mechanism for improved trust in electronic marketplaces. However, they experience two problems attributable to anonymity abuse--easy identity changes and reputation manipulation. In this study, we propose the use of stylometric analysis to help identify online traders based on the writing style traces inherent in their posted feedback comments. We incorporated a rich stylistic feature set and developed the Writeprint technique for detection of anonymous trader identities. The technique and extended feature set were evaluated on a test bed encompassing thousands of feedback comments posted by 200 eBay traders. Experiments conducted to assess the scalability (number of traders) and robustness (against intentional obfuscation) of the proposed approach found it to significantly outperform benchmark stylometric techniques. The results indicate that the proposed method may help militate against easy identity changes and reputation manipulation in electronic markets.

Key words and phrases: anti-aliasing, electronic markets, online trust, similarity detection, stylometry