Lifan Yuan


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Bridge the Gap Between CV and NLP! A Gradient-based Textual Adversarial Attack Framework
Lifan Yuan | YiChi Zhang | Yangyi Chen | Wei Wei
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Despite recent success on various tasks, deep learning techniques still perform poorly on adversarial examples with small perturbations. While optimization-based methods for adversarial attacks are well-explored in the field of computer vision, it is impractical to directly apply them in natural language processing due to the discrete nature of the text. To address the problem, we propose a unified framework to extend the existing optimization-based adversarial attack methods in the vision domain to craft textual adversarial samples. In this framework, continuously optimized perturbations are added to the embedding layer and amplified in the forward propagation process. Then the final perturbed latent representations are decoded with a masked language model head to obtain potential adversarial samples. In this paper, we instantiate our framework with an attack algorithm named Textual Projected Gradient Descent (T-PGD). We find our algorithm effective even using proxy gradient information. Therefore, we perform the more challenging transfer black-box attack and conduct comprehensive experiments to evaluate our attack algorithm with several models on three benchmark datasets. Experimental results demonstrate that our method achieves overall better performance and produces more fluent and grammatical adversarial samples compared to strong baseline methods. The code and data are available at

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From Adversarial Arms Race to Model-centric Evaluation: Motivating a Unified Automatic Robustness Evaluation Framework
Yangyi Chen | Hongcheng Gao | Ganqu Cui | Lifan Yuan | Dehan Kong | Hanlu Wu | Ning Shi | Bo Yuan | Longtao Huang | Hui Xue | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun | Heng Ji
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Textual adversarial attacks can discover models’ weaknesses by adding semantic-preserved but misleading perturbations to the inputs. The long-lasting adversarial attack-and-defense arms race in Natural Language Processing (NLP) is algorithm-centric, providing valuable techniques for automatic robustness evaluation. However, the existing practice of robustness evaluation may exhibit issues of incomprehensive evaluation, impractical evaluation protocol, and invalid adversarial samples. In this paper, we aim to set up a unified automatic robustness evaluation framework, shifting towards model-centric evaluation to further exploit the advantages of adversarial attacks. To address the above challenges, we first determine robustness evaluation dimensions based on model capabilities and specify the reasonable algorithm to generate adversarial samples for each dimension. Then we establish the evaluation protocol, including evaluation settings and metrics, under realistic demands. Finally, we use the perturbation degree of adversarial samples to control the sample validity. We implement a toolkit RobTest that realizes our automatic robustness evaluation framework. In our experiments, we conduct a robustness evaluation of RoBERTa models to demonstrate the effectiveness of our evaluation framework, and further show the rationality of each component in the framework.

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Beat LLMs at Their Own Game: Zero-Shot LLM-Generated Text Detection via Querying ChatGPT
Biru Zhu | Lifan Yuan | Ganqu Cui | Yangyi Chen | Chong Fu | Bingxiang He | Yangdong Deng | Zhiyuan Liu | Maosong Sun | Ming Gu
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Large language models (LLMs), e.g., ChatGPT, have revolutionized the domain of natural language processing because of their excellent performance on various tasks. Despite their great potential, LLMs also incur serious concerns as they are likely to be misused. There are already reported cases of academic cheating by using LLMs. Thus, it is a pressing problem to identify LLM-generated texts. In this work, we design a zero-shot black-box method for detecting LLM-generated texts. The key idea is to revise the text to be detected using the ChatGPT model. Our method is based on the intuition that the ChatGPT model will make fewer revisions to LLM-generated texts than it does to human-written texts, because the texts generated by LLMs are more in accord with the generation logic and statistical patterns learned by LLMs like ChatGPT. Thus, if the text to be detected and its ChatGPT-revised version have a higher degree of similarity, the text is more likely to be LLM-generated. Extensive experiments on various datasets and tasks show that our method can effectively detect LLM-generated texts. Moreover, compared with other detection methods, our method has better generalization ability and is more stable across various datasets. The codes are publicly available at

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A Close Look into the Calibration of Pre-trained Language Models
Yangyi Chen | Lifan Yuan | Ganqu Cui | Zhiyuan Liu | Heng Ji
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Pre-trained language models (PLMs) may fail in giving reliable estimates of their predictive uncertainty. We take a close look into this problem, aiming to answer two questions: (1) Do PLMs learn to become calibrated in the training process? (2) How effective are existing calibration methods? For the first question, we conduct fine-grained control experiments to study the dynamic change in PLMs’ calibration performance in training. We consider six factors as control variables, including dataset difficulty, available training samples, training steps, the number of tunable parameters, model scale, and pretraining. We observe a consistent change in calibration performance across six factors. We find that PLMs don’t learn to become calibrated in training, evidenced by the continual increase in confidence, no matter whether the predictions are correct or not. We highlight that our finding somewhat contradicts two established conclusions: (a) Larger PLMs are more calibrated; (b) Pretraining improves model calibration. Next, we study the effectiveness of existing calibration methods in mitigating the overconfidence issue. Besides unlearnable calibration methods (e.g., label smoothing), we adapt and extend two recently proposed learnable methods that directly collect data to train models to have reasonable confidence estimations. Experimental results show that learnable methods significantly reduce PLMs’ confidence in wrong predictions.


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FactMix: Using a Few Labeled In-domain Examples to Generalize to Cross-domain Named Entity Recognition
Linyi Yang | Lifan Yuan | Leyang Cui | Wenyang Gao | Yue Zhang
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Few-shot Named Entity Recognition (NER) is imperative for entity tagging in limited resource domains and thus received proper attention in recent years. Existing approaches for few-shot NER are evaluated mainly under in-domain settings. In contrast, little is known about how these inherently faithful models perform in cross-domain NER using a few labeled in-domain examples. This paper proposes a two-step rationale-centric data augmentation method to improve the model’s generalization ability. Results on several datasets show that our model-agnostic method significantly improves the performance of cross-domain NER tasks compared to previous state-of-the-art methods compared to the counterfactual data augmentation and prompt-tuning methods.