Yanjun Qi


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Towards Building a Robust Toxicity Predictor
Dmitriy Bespalov | Sourav Bhabesh | Yi Xiang | Liutong Zhou | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 5: Industry Track)

Recent NLP literature pays little attention to the robustness of toxicity language predictors, while these systems are most likely to be used in adversarial contexts. This paper presents a novel adversarial attack, \texttt{ToxicTrap}, introducing small word-level perturbations to fool SOTA text classifiers to predict toxic text samples as benign. \texttt{ToxicTrap} exploits greedy based search strategies to enable fast and effective generation of toxic adversarial examples. Two novel goal function designs allow \texttt{ToxicTrap} to identify weaknesses in both multiclass and multilabel toxic language detectors. Our empirical results show that SOTA toxicity text classifiers are indeed vulnerable to the proposed attacks, attaining over 98\% attack success rates in multilabel cases. We also show how a vanilla adversarial training and its improved version can help increase robustness of a toxicity detector even against unseen attacks.

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Expanding Scope: Adapting English Adversarial Attacks to Chinese
Hanyu Liu | Chengyuan Cai | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Trustworthy Natural Language Processing (TrustNLP 2023)

Recent studies have revealed that NLP predictive models are vulnerable to adversarial attacks. Most existing studies focused on designing attacks to evaluate the robustness of NLP models in the English language alone. Literature has seen an increasing need for NLP solutions for other languages. We, therefore, ask one natural question whether state-of-the-art (SOTA) attack methods generalize to other languages. This paper investigates how to adapt SOTA adversarial attack algorithms in English to the Chinese language. Our experiments show that attack methods previously applied to English NLP can generate high-quality adversarial examples in Chinese when combined with proper text segmentation and linguistic constraints. In addition, we demonstrate that the generated adversarial examples can achieve high fluency and sentiment consistency by focusing on the Chinese language’s morphology and phonology, which in turn can be used to improve the adversarial robustness of Chinese NLP models.


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White-box Testing of NLP models with Mask Neuron Coverage
Arshdeep Sekhon | Yangfeng Ji | Matthew Dwyer | Yanjun Qi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Recent literature has seen growing interest in using black-box strategies like for testing the behavior of NLP models. Research on white-box testing has developed a number of methods for evaluatinghow thoroughly the internal behavior of deep models is tested, but they are not applicableto NLP models. We propose a set of white-box testing methods that are customized for transformer-based NLP models. These include MASK NEURON COVERAGE (MNCOVER) that measures how thoroughlythe attention layers in models are exercised during testing. We show that MNCOVER can refine testing suites generated by CheckList by substantiallyreduce them in size, for more than 60% on average, while retaining failing tests – thereby concentrating the faultdetection power of the test suite. Further we show how can be used to guide CheckList input generation,evaluate alternative NLP testing methods, and drive data augmentation to improve accuracy.


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Perturbing Inputs for Fragile Interpretations in Deep Natural Language Processing
Sanchit Sinha | Hanjie Chen | Arshdeep Sekhon | Yangfeng Ji | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the Fourth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

Interpretability methods like Integrated Gradient and LIME are popular choices for explaining natural language model predictions with relative word importance scores. These interpretations need to be robust for trustworthy NLP applications in high-stake areas like medicine or finance. Our paper demonstrates how interpretations can be manipulated by making simple word perturbations on an input text. Via a small portion of word-level swaps, these adversarial perturbations aim to make the resulting text semantically and spatially similar to its seed input (therefore sharing similar interpretations). Simultaneously, the generated examples achieve the same prediction label as the seed yet are given a substantially different explanation by the interpretation methods. Our experiments generate fragile interpretations to attack two SOTA interpretation methods, across three popular Transformer models and on three different NLP datasets. We observe that the rank order correlation and top-K intersection score drops by over 20% when less than 10% of words are perturbed on average. Further, rank-order correlation keeps decreasing as more words get perturbed. Furthermore, we demonstrate that candidates generated from our method have good quality metrics.

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Towards Improving Adversarial Training of NLP Models
Jin Yong Yoo | Yanjun Qi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Adversarial training, a method for learning robust deep neural networks, constructs adversarial examples during training. However, recent methods for generating NLP adversarial examples involve combinatorial search and expensive sentence encoders for constraining the generated instances. As a result, it remains challenging to use vanilla adversarial training to improve NLP models’ performance, and the benefits are mainly uninvestigated. This paper proposes a simple and improved vanilla adversarial training process for NLP models, which we name Attacking to Training (A2T). The core part of A2T is a new and cheaper word substitution attack optimized for vanilla adversarial training. We use A2T to train BERT and RoBERTa models on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp, and SNLI datasets. Our results empirically show that it is possible to train robust NLP models using a much cheaper adversary. We demonstrate that vanilla adversarial training with A2T can improve an NLP model’s robustness to the attack it was originally trained with and also defend the model against other types of word substitution attacks. Furthermore, we show that A2T can improve NLP models’ standard accuracy, cross-domain generalization, and interpretability.


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Searching for a Search Method: Benchmarking Search Algorithms for Generating NLP Adversarial Examples
Jin Yong Yoo | John Morris | Eli Lifland | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the Third BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

We study the behavior of several black-box search algorithms used for generating adversarial examples for natural language processing (NLP) tasks. We perform a fine-grained analysis of three elements relevant to search: search algorithm, search space, and search budget. When new search algorithms are proposed in past work, the attack search space is often modified alongside the search algorithm. Without ablation studies benchmarking the search algorithm change with the search space held constant, one cannot tell if an increase in attack success rate is a result of an improved search algorithm or a less restrictive search space. Additionally, many previous studies fail to properly consider the search algorithms’ run-time cost, which is essential for downstream tasks like adversarial training. Our experiments provide a reproducible benchmark of search algorithms across a variety of search spaces and query budgets to guide future research in adversarial NLP. Based on our experiments, we recommend greedy attacks with word importance ranking when under a time constraint or attacking long inputs, and either beam search or particle swarm optimization otherwise.

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Reevaluating Adversarial Examples in Natural Language
John Morris | Eli Lifland | Jack Lanchantin | Yangfeng Ji | Yanjun Qi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

State-of-the-art attacks on NLP models lack a shared definition of a what constitutes a successful attack. We distill ideas from past work into a unified framework: a successful natural language adversarial example is a perturbation that fools the model and follows some linguistic constraints. We then analyze the outputs of two state-of-the-art synonym substitution attacks. We find that their perturbations often do not preserve semantics, and 38% introduce grammatical errors. Human surveys reveal that to successfully preserve semantics, we need to significantly increase the minimum cosine similarities between the embeddings of swapped words and between the sentence encodings of original and perturbed sentences. With constraints adjusted to better preserve semantics and grammaticality, the attack success rate drops by over 70 percentage points.

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TextAttack: Lessons learned in designing Python frameworks for NLP
John Morris | Jin Yong Yoo | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of Second Workshop for NLP Open Source Software (NLP-OSS)

TextAttack is an open-source Python toolkit for adversarial attacks, adversarial training, and data augmentation in NLP. TextAttack unites 15+ papers from the NLP adversarial attack literature into a single framework, with many components reused across attacks. This framework allows both researchers and developers to test and study the weaknesses of their NLP models. To build such an open-source NLP toolkit requires solving some common problems: How do we enable users to supply models from different deep learning frameworks? How can we build tools to support as many different datasets as possible? We share our insights into developing a well-written, well-documented NLP Python framework in hope that they can aid future development of similar packages.

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TextAttack: A Framework for Adversarial Attacks, Data Augmentation, and Adversarial Training in NLP
John Morris | Eli Lifland | Jin Yong Yoo | Jake Grigsby | Di Jin | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

While there has been substantial research using adversarial attacks to analyze NLP models, each attack is implemented in its own code repository. It remains challenging to develop NLP attacks and utilize them to improve model performance. This paper introduces TextAttack, a Python framework for adversarial attacks, data augmentation, and adversarial training in NLP. TextAttack builds attacks from four components: a goal function, a set of constraints, a transformation, and a search method. TextAttack’s modular design enables researchers to easily construct attacks from combinations of novel and existing components. TextAttack provides implementations of 16 adversarial attacks from the literature and supports a variety of models and datasets, including BERT and other transformers, and all GLUE tasks. TextAttack also includes data augmentation and adversarial training modules for using components of adversarial attacks to improve model accuracy and robustness. TextAttack is democratizing NLP: anyone can try data augmentation and adversarial training on any model or dataset, with just a few lines of code. Code and tutorials are available at https://github.com/QData/TextAttack.


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Character based String Kernels for Bio-Entity Relation Detection
Ritambhara Singh | Yanjun Qi
Proceedings of the 15th Workshop on Biomedical Natural Language Processing