Xuanli He


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Student Surpasses Teacher: Imitation Attack for Black-Box NLP APIs
Qiongkai Xu | Xuanli He | Lingjuan Lyu | Lizhen Qu | Gholamreza Haffari
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

Machine-learning-as-a-service (MLaaS) has attracted millions of users to their splendid large-scale models. Although published as black-box APIs, the valuable models behind these services are still vulnerable to imitation attacks. Recently, a series of works have demonstrated that attackers manage to steal or extract the victim models. Nonetheless, none of the previous stolen models can outperform the original black-box APIs. In this work, we conduct unsupervised domain adaptation and multi-victim ensemble to showing that attackers could potentially surpass victims, which is beyond previous understanding of model extraction. Extensive experiments on both benchmark datasets and real-world APIs validate that the imitators can succeed in outperforming the original black-box models on transferred domains. We consider our work as a milestone in the research of imitation attack, especially on NLP APIs, as the superior performance could influence the defense or even publishing strategy of API providers.

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Generate, Annotate, and Learn: NLP with Synthetic Text
Xuanli He | Islam Nassar | Jamie Kiros | Gholamreza Haffari | Mohammad Norouzi
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

This paper studies the use of language models as a source of synthetic unlabeled text for NLP. We formulate a general framework called “generate, annotate, and learn (GAL)” to take advantage of synthetic text within knowledge distillation, self-training, and few-shot learning applications. To generate high-quality task-specific text, we either fine-tune LMs on inputs from the task of interest, or prompt large LMs with few examples. We use the best available classifier to annotate synthetic text with soft pseudo labels for knowledge distillation and self-training, and use LMs to obtain hard labels for few-shot learning. We train new supervised models on the combination of labeled and pseudo-labeled data, which results in significant gains across several applications. We investigate key components of GAL and present theoretical and empirical arguments against the use of class-conditional LMs to generate synthetic labeled text instead of unlabeled text. GAL achieves new state-of-the-art knowledge distillation results for 6-layer transformers on the GLUE leaderboard.


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Generalised Unsupervised Domain Adaptation of Neural Machine Translation with Cross-Lingual Data Selection
Thuy-Trang Vu | Xuanli He | Dinh Phung | Gholamreza Haffari
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

This paper considers the unsupervised domain adaptation problem for neural machine translation (NMT), where we assume the access to only monolingual text in either the source or target language in the new domain. We propose a cross-lingual data selection method to extract in-domain sentences in the missing language side from a large generic monolingual corpus. Our proposed method trains an adaptive layer on top of multilingual BERT by contrastive learning to align the representation between the source and target language. This then enables the transferability of the domain classifier between the languages in a zero-shot manner. Once the in-domain data is detected by the classifier, the NMT model is then adapted to the new domain by jointly learning translation and domain discrimination tasks. We evaluate our cross-lingual data selection method on NMT across five diverse domains in three language pairs, as well as a real-world scenario of translation for COVID-19. The results show that our proposed method outperforms other selection baselines up to +1.5 BLEU score.

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Model Extraction and Adversarial Transferability, Your BERT is Vulnerable!
Xuanli He | Lingjuan Lyu | Lichao Sun | Qiongkai Xu
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Natural language processing (NLP) tasks, ranging from text classification to text generation, have been revolutionised by the pretrained language models, such as BERT. This allows corporations to easily build powerful APIs by encapsulating fine-tuned BERT models for downstream tasks. However, when a fine-tuned BERT model is deployed as a service, it may suffer from different attacks launched by the malicious users. In this work, we first present how an adversary can steal a BERT-based API service (the victim/target model) on multiple benchmark datasets with limited prior knowledge and queries. We further show that the extracted model can lead to highly transferable adversarial attacks against the victim model. Our studies indicate that the potential vulnerabilities of BERT-based API services still hold, even when there is an architectural mismatch between the victim model and the attack model. Finally, we investigate two defence strategies to protect the victim model, and find that unless the performance of the victim model is sacrificed, both model extraction and adversarial transferability can effectively compromise the target models.


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Dynamic Programming Encoding for Subword Segmentation in Neural Machine Translation
Xuanli He | Gholamreza Haffari | Mohammad Norouzi
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

This paper introduces Dynamic Programming Encoding (DPE), a new segmentation algorithm for tokenizing sentences into subword units. We view the subword segmentation of output sentences as a latent variable that should be marginalized out for learning and inference. A mixed character-subword transformer is proposed, which enables exact log marginal likelihood estimation and exact MAP inference to find target segmentations with maximum posterior probability. DPE uses a lightweight mixed character-subword transformer as a means of pre-processing parallel data to segment output sentences using dynamic programming. Empirical results on machine translation suggest that DPE is effective for segmenting output sentences and can be combined with BPE dropout for stochastic segmentation of source sentences. DPE achieves an average improvement of 0.9 BLEU over BPE (Sennrich et al., 2016) and an average improvement of 0.55 BLEU over BPE dropout (Provilkov et al., 2019) on several WMT datasets including English <=> (German, Romanian, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian).

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Scene Graph Modification Based on Natural Language Commands
Xuanli He | Quan Hung Tran | Gholamreza Haffari | Walter Chang | Zhe Lin | Trung Bui | Franck Dernoncourt | Nhan Dam
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Structured representations like graphs and parse trees play a crucial role in many Natural Language Processing systems. In recent years, the advancements in multi-turn user interfaces necessitate the need for controlling and updating these structured representations given new sources of information. Although there have been many efforts focusing on improving the performance of the parsers that map text to graphs or parse trees, very few have explored the problem of directly manipulating these representations. In this paper, we explore the novel problem of graph modification, where the systems need to learn how to update an existing scene graph given a new user’s command. Our novel models based on graph-based sparse transformer and cross attention information fusion outperform previous systems adapted from the machine translation and graph generation literature. We further contribute our large graph modification datasets to the research community to encourage future research for this new problem.

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Differentially Private Representation for NLP: Formal Guarantee and An Empirical Study on Privacy and Fairness
Lingjuan Lyu | Xuanli He | Yitong Li
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

It has been demonstrated that hidden representation learned by deep model can encode private information of the input, hence can be exploited to recover such information with reasonable accuracy. To address this issue, we propose a novel approach called Differentially Private Neural Representation (DPNR) to preserve privacy of the extracted representation from text. DPNR utilises Differential Privacy (DP) to provide formal privacy guarantee. Further, we show that masking words via dropout can further enhance privacy. To maintain utility of the learned representation, we integrate DP-noisy representation into a robust training process to derive a robust target model, which also helps for model fairness over various demographic variables. Experimental results on benchmark datasets under various parameter settings demonstrate that DPNR largely reduces privacy leakage without significantly sacrificing the main task performance.


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A Pointer Network Architecture for Context-Dependent Semantic Parsing
Xuanli He | Quan Tran | Gholamreza Haffari
Proceedings of the The 17th Annual Workshop of the Australasian Language Technology Association


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Exploring Textual and Speech information in Dialogue Act Classification with Speaker Domain Adaptation
Xuanli He | Quan Tran | William Havard | Laurent Besacier | Ingrid Zukerman | Gholamreza Haffari
Proceedings of the Australasian Language Technology Association Workshop 2018

In spite of the recent success of Dialogue Act (DA) classification, the majority of prior works focus on text-based classification with oracle transcriptions, i.e. human transcriptions, instead of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)’s transcriptions. In spoken dialog systems, however, the agent would only have access to noisy ASR transcriptions, which may further suffer performance degradation due to domain shift. In this paper, we explore the effectiveness of using both acoustic and textual signals, either oracle or ASR transcriptions, and investigate speaker domain adaptation for DA classification. Our multimodal model proves to be superior to the unimodal models, particularly when the oracle transcriptions are not available. We also propose an effective method for speaker domain adaptation, which achieves competitive results.

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Sequence to Sequence Mixture Model for Diverse Machine Translation
Xuanli He | Gholamreza Haffari | Mohammad Norouzi
Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning

Sequence to sequence (SEQ2SEQ) models lack diversity in their generated translations. This can be attributed to their limitations in capturing lexical and syntactic variations in parallel corpora, due to different styles, genres, topics, or ambiguity of human translation process. In this paper, we develop a novel sequence to sequence mixture (S2SMIX) model that improves both translation diversity and quality by adopting a committee of specialized translation models rather than a single translation model. Each mixture component selects its own training dataset via optimization of the marginal log-likelihood, which leads to a soft clustering of the parallel corpus. Experiments on four language pairs demonstrate the superiority of our mixture model compared to SEQ2SEQ model with the standard and diversity encouraged beam search. Our mixture model incurs negligible additional parameters and no extra computation in the decoding time.


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Word Representation Models for Morphologically Rich Languages in Neural Machine Translation
Ekaterina Vylomova | Trevor Cohn | Xuanli He | Gholamreza Haffari
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Subword and Character Level Models in NLP

Out-of-vocabulary words present a great challenge for Machine Translation. Recently various character-level compositional models were proposed to address this issue. In current research we incorporate two most popular neural architectures, namely LSTM and CNN, into hard- and soft-attentional models of translation for character-level representation of the source. We propose semantic and morphological intrinsic evaluation of encoder-level representations. Our analysis of the learned representations reveals that character-based LSTM seems to be better at capturing morphological aspects compared to character-based CNN. We also show that hard-attentional model provides better character-level representations compared to vanilla one.