Boxin Wang


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SemAttack: Natural Textual Attacks via Different Semantic Spaces
Boxin Wang | Chejian Xu | Xiangyu Liu | Yu Cheng | Bo Li
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Recent studies show that pre-trained language models (LMs) are vulnerable to textual adversarial attacks. However, existing attack methods either suffer from low attack success rates or fail to search efficiently in the exponentially large perturbation space. We propose an efficient and effective framework SemAttack to generate natural adversarial text by constructing different semantic perturbation functions. In particular, SemAttack optimizes the generated perturbations constrained on generic semantic spaces, including typo space, knowledge space (e.g., WordNet), contextualized semantic space (e.g., the embedding space of BERT clusterings), or the combination of these spaces. Thus, the generated adversarial texts are more semantically close to the original inputs. Extensive experiments reveal that state-of-the-art (SOTA) large-scale LMs (e.g., DeBERTa-v2) and defense strategies (e.g., FreeLB) are still vulnerable to SemAttack. We further demonstrate that SemAttack is general and able to generate natural adversarial texts for different languages (e.g., English and Chinese) with high attack success rates. Human evaluations also confirm that our generated adversarial texts are natural and barely affect human performance. Our code is publicly available at


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Counterfactual Adversarial Learning with Representation Interpolation
Wei Wang | Boxin Wang | Ning Shi | Jinfeng Li | Bingyu Zhu | Xiangyu Liu | Rong Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Deep learning models exhibit a preference for statistical fitting over logical reasoning. Spurious correlations might be memorized when there exists statistical bias in training data, which severely limits the model performance especially in small data scenarios. In this work, we introduce Counterfactual Adversarial Training framework (CAT) to tackle the problem from a causality perspective. Particularly, for a specific sample, CAT first generates a counterfactual representation through latent space interpolation in an adversarial manner, and then performs Counterfactual Risk Minimization (CRM) on each original-counterfactual pair to adjust sample-wise loss weight dynamically, which encourages the model to explore the true causal effect. Extensive experiments demonstrate that CAT achieves substantial performance improvement over SOTA across different downstream tasks, including sentence classification, natural language inference and question answering.


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T3: Tree-Autoencoder Constrained Adversarial Text Generation for Targeted Attack
Boxin Wang | Hengzhi Pei | Boyuan Pan | Qian Chen | Shuohang Wang | Bo Li
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Adversarial attacks against natural language processing systems, which perform seemingly innocuous modifications to inputs, can induce arbitrary mistakes to the target models. Though raised great concerns, such adversarial attacks can be leveraged to estimate the robustness of NLP models. Compared with the adversarial example generation in continuous data domain (e.g., image), generating adversarial text that preserves the original meaning is challenging since the text space is discrete and non-differentiable. To handle these challenges, we propose a target-controllable adversarial attack framework T3, which is applicable to a range of NLP tasks. In particular, we propose a tree-based autoencoder to embed the discrete text data into a continuous representation space, upon which we optimize the adversarial perturbation. A novel tree-based decoder is then applied to regularize the syntactic correctness of the generated text and manipulate it on either sentence (T3(Sent)) or word (T3(Word)) level. We consider two most representative NLP tasks: sentiment analysis and question answering (QA). Extensive experimental results and human studies show that T3 generated adversarial texts can successfully manipulate the NLP models to output the targeted incorrect answer without misleading the human. Moreover, we show that the generated adversarial texts have high transferability which enables the black-box attacks in practice. Our work sheds light on an effective and general way to examine the robustness of NLP models. Our code is publicly available at