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Abstract:Real-time solutions to the influence blocking maximization (IBM) problems are crucial for promptly containing the spread of misinformation. However, achieving this goal is non-trivial, mainly because assessing the blocked influence of an IBM problem solution typically requires plenty of expensive Monte Carlo simulations (MCSs). Although several approaches have been proposed to enhance efficiency, they still fail to achieve real-time solutions to IBM problems of practical scales. This work presents a novel approach that enables solving IBM problems with hundreds of thousands of nodes and edges in seconds. The key idea is to construct a fast-to-evaluate surrogate model, called neural influence estimator (NIE), as a substitute for the time-intensive MCSs. To this end, a learning problem is formulated to build the NIE that takes the false-and-true information instance as input, extracts features describing the topology and inter-relationship between two seed sets, and predicts the blocked influence. A well-trained NIE can generalize across different IBM problems defined on a social network, and can be readily combined with existing IBM optimization algorithms such as the greedy algorithm. The experiments on 25 IBM problems with up to millions of edges show that the NIE-based optimization method can be up to four orders of magnitude faster than MCSs-based optimization method to achieve the same solution quality. Moreover, given a real-time constraint of one minute, the NIE-based method can solve IBM problems with up to hundreds of thousands of nodes, which is at least one order of magnitude larger than what can be solved by existing methods.