Paul Michel


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Weight Poisoning Attacks on Pretrained Models
Keita Kurita | Paul Michel | Graham Neubig
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Recently, NLP has seen a surge in the usage of large pre-trained models. Users download weights of models pre-trained on large datasets, then fine-tune the weights on a task of their choice. This raises the question of whether downloading untrusted pre-trained weights can pose a security threat. In this paper, we show that it is possible to construct “weight poisoning” attacks where pre-trained weights are injected with vulnerabilities that expose “backdoors” after fine-tuning, enabling the attacker to manipulate the model prediction simply by injecting an arbitrary keyword. We show that by applying a regularization method which we call RIPPLe and an initialization procedure we call Embedding Surgery, such attacks are possible even with limited knowledge of the dataset and fine-tuning procedure. Our experiments on sentiment classification, toxicity detection, and spam detection show that this attack is widely applicable and poses a serious threat. Finally, we outline practical defenses against such attacks.

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Findings of the WMT 2020 Shared Task on Machine Translation Robustness
Lucia Specia | Zhenhao Li | Juan Pino | Vishrav Chaudhary | Francisco Guzmán | Graham Neubig | Nadir Durrani | Yonatan Belinkov | Philipp Koehn | Hassan Sajjad | Paul Michel | Xian Li
Proceedings of the Fifth Conference on Machine Translation

We report the findings of the second edition of the shared task on improving robustness in Machine Translation (MT). The task aims to test current machine translation systems in their ability to handle challenges facing MT models to be deployed in the real world, including domain diversity and non-standard texts common in user generated content, especially in social media. We cover two language pairs – English-German and English-Japanese and provide test sets in zero-shot and few-shot variants. Participating systems are evaluated both automatically and manually, with an additional human evaluation for ”catastrophic errors”. We received 59 submissions by 11 participating teams from a variety of types of institutions.


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On Evaluation of Adversarial Perturbations for Sequence-to-Sequence Models
Paul Michel | Xian Li | Graham Neubig | Juan Pino
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Adversarial examples — perturbations to the input of a model that elicit large changes in the output — have been shown to be an effective way of assessing the robustness of sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) models. However, these perturbations only indicate weaknesses in the model if they do not change the input so significantly that it legitimately results in changes in the expected output. This fact has largely been ignored in the evaluations of the growing body of related literature. Using the example of untargeted attacks on machine translation (MT), we propose a new evaluation framework for adversarial attacks on seq2seq models that takes the semantic equivalence of the pre- and post-perturbation input into account. Using this framework, we demonstrate that existing methods may not preserve meaning in general, breaking the aforementioned assumption that source side perturbations should not result in changes in the expected output. We further use this framework to demonstrate that adding additional constraints on attacks allows for adversarial perturbations that are more meaning-preserving, but nonetheless largely change the output sequence. Finally, we show that performing untargeted adversarial training with meaning-preserving attacks is beneficial to the model in terms of adversarial robustness, without hurting test performance. A toolkit implementing our evaluation framework is released at

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compare-mt: A Tool for Holistic Comparison of Language Generation Systems
Graham Neubig | Zi-Yi Dou | Junjie Hu | Paul Michel | Danish Pruthi | Xinyi Wang
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Demonstrations)

In this paper, we describe compare-mt, a tool for holistic analysis and comparison of the results of systems for language generation tasks such as machine translation. The main goal of the tool is to give the user a high-level and coherent view of the salient differences between systems that can then be used to guide further analysis or system improvement. It implements a number of tools to do so, such as analysis of accuracy of generation of particular types of words, bucketed histograms of sentence accuracies or counts based on salient characteristics, and extraction of characteristic n-grams for each system. It also has a number of advanced features such as use of linguistic labels, source side data, or comparison of log likelihoods for probabilistic models, and also aims to be easily extensible by users to new types of analysis. compare-mt is a pure-Python open source package, that has already proven useful to generate analyses that have been used in our published papers. Demo Video:

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Findings of the First Shared Task on Machine Translation Robustness
Xian Li | Paul Michel | Antonios Anastasopoulos | Yonatan Belinkov | Nadir Durrani | Orhan Firat | Philipp Koehn | Graham Neubig | Juan Pino | Hassan Sajjad
Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Machine Translation (Volume 2: Shared Task Papers, Day 1)

We share the findings of the first shared task on improving robustness of Machine Translation (MT). The task provides a testbed representing challenges facing MT models deployed in the real world, and facilitates new approaches to improve models’ robustness to noisy input and domain mismatch. We focus on two language pairs (English-French and English-Japanese), and the submitted systems are evaluated on a blind test set consisting of noisy comments on Reddit and professionally sourced translations. As a new task, we received 23 submissions by 11 participating teams from universities, companies, national labs, etc. All submitted systems achieved large improvements over baselines, with the best improvement having +22.33 BLEU. We evaluated submissions by both human judgment and automatic evaluation (BLEU), which shows high correlations (Pearson’s r = 0.94 and 0.95). Furthermore, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the submitted systems using compare-mt, which revealed their salient differences in handling challenges in this task. Such analysis provides additional insights when there is occasional disagreement between human judgment and BLEU, e.g. systems better at producing colloquial expressions received higher score from human judgment.


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Extreme Adaptation for Personalized Neural Machine Translation
Paul Michel | Graham Neubig
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Every person speaks or writes their own flavor of their native language, influenced by a number of factors: the content they tend to talk about, their gender, their social status, or their geographical origin. When attempting to perform Machine Translation (MT), these variations have a significant effect on how the system should perform translation, but this is not captured well by standard one-size-fits-all models. In this paper, we propose a simple and parameter-efficient adaptation technique that only requires adapting the bias of the output softmax to each particular user of the MT system, either directly or through a factored approximation. Experiments on TED talks in three languages demonstrate improvements in translation accuracy, and better reflection of speaker traits in the target text.

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MTNT: A Testbed for Machine Translation of Noisy Text
Paul Michel | Graham Neubig
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Noisy or non-standard input text can cause disastrous mistranslations in most modern Machine Translation (MT) systems, and there has been growing research interest in creating noise-robust MT systems. However, as of yet there are no publicly available parallel corpora of with naturally occurring noisy inputs and translations, and thus previous work has resorted to evaluating on synthetically created datasets. In this paper, we propose a benchmark dataset for Machine Translation of Noisy Text (MTNT), consisting of noisy comments on Reddit ( and professionally sourced translations. We commissioned translations of English comments into French and Japanese, as well as French and Japanese comments into English, on the order of 7k-37k sentences per language pair. We qualitatively and quantitatively examine the types of noise included in this dataset, then demonstrate that existing MT models fail badly on a number of noise-related phenomena, even after performing adaptation on a small training set of in-domain data. This indicates that this dataset can provide an attractive testbed for methods tailored to handling noisy text in MT.


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Does the Geometry of Word Embeddings Help Document Classification? A Case Study on Persistent Homology-Based Representations
Paul Michel | Abhilasha Ravichander | Shruti Rijhwani
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP

We investigate the pertinence of methods from algebraic topology for text data analysis. These methods enable the development of mathematically-principled isometric-invariant mappings from a set of vectors to a document embedding, which is stable with respect to the geometry of the document in the selected metric space. In this work, we evaluate the utility of these topology-based document representations in traditional NLP tasks, specifically document clustering and sentiment classification. We find that the embeddings do not benefit text analysis. In fact, performance is worse than simple techniques like tf-idf, indicating that the geometry of the document does not provide enough variability for classification on the basis of topic or sentiment in the chosen datasets.

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Blind Phoneme Segmentation With Temporal Prediction Errors
Paul Michel | Okko Rasanen | Roland Thiollière | Emmanuel Dupoux
Proceedings of ACL 2017, Student Research Workshop