Recovering Unbalanced Communities in the Stochastic Block Model with Application to Clustering with a Faulty Oracle

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

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Chandra Sekhar Mukherjee, Pan Peng, Jiapeng Zhang


The stochastic block model (SBM) is a fundamental model for studying graph clustering or community detection in networks. It has received great attention in the last decade and the balanced case, i.e., assuming all clusters have large size, has been well studied. However, our understanding of SBM with unbalanced communities (arguably, more relevant in practice) is still limited. In this paper, we provide a simple SVD-based algorithm for recovering the communities in the SBM with communities of varying sizes.We improve upon a result of Ailon, Chen and Xu [ICML 2013; JMLR 2015] by removing the assumption that there is a large interval such that the sizes of clusters do not fall in, and also remove the dependency of the size of the recoverable clusters on the number of underlying clusters. We further complement our theoretical improvements with experimental comparisons.Under the planted clique conjecture, the size of the clusters that can be recovered by our algorithm is nearly optimal (up to poly-logarithmic factors) when the probability parameters are constant. As a byproduct, we obtain an efficient clustering algorithm with sublinear query complexity in a faulty oracle model, which is capable of detecting all clusters larger than $\tilde{\Omega}({\sqrt{n}})$, even in the presence of $\Omega(n)$ small clusters in the graph. In contrast, previous efficient algorithms that use a sublinear number of queries are incapable of recovering any large clusters if there are more than $\tilde{\Omega}(n^{2/5})$ small clusters.