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Project Anonymizes Your Writing Style To Hide Your Identity 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-under-covers dept.
mikejuk writes "An open source project to combat 'stylometry,' the study of attributing authorship to documents based only on the linguistic style they exhibit, is proving that it is possible to change writing style to evade detection. Artificial Intelligence techniques are routinely used to detect plagiarism and recently were employed to reveal that Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is indeed the author of The Cuckoo's Calling, which was published under the byline of Robert Galbraith. Now software is tackling the opposite problem — anonymizing writing style to protect the identity of the originator. The JStylo-Anonymouth (JSAN) framework is a work in progress at the Privacy, Security and Automation Lab (PSAL) at Drexel University. It analyzes a written text and detects features which could be used to identify the author. It then suggests changes that need to be made to avoid the author's stylistic fingerprint appearing in the work."
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Project Anonymizes Your Writing Style To Hide Your Identity

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 05, 2013 @11:59AM (#44477913) Homepage Journal

    How will it disguise my terrible opinions that are obviously wrong?

    • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@@@devinmoore...com> on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:06PM (#44477977) Homepage Journal

      Those blend right in with the rest of the internet.

    • by icebike (68054)

      How will it disguise my terrible opinions that are obviously wrong?

      It won't, it will just attribute them to Francis Bacon.

      • Great. Benjamin Franklin is going to end up the only person to have a valid opinion.

      • by plover (150551)

        Cardinal Richelieu (supposedly) wrote: "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." Will the JStylo-Anonymouth mean that he'd be able to hang everyone who used it?

    • It will post them on slashdot.

  • The Cuckoo's Calling (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <<richardprice> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:03PM (#44477941)

    Artificial Intelligence techniques are routinely used to detect plagiarism and recently were employed to reveal that Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is indeed the author of The Cuckoo's Calling, which was published under the byline of Robert Galbraith.

    Uhm, what? It was revealed by someone at Rowlings agency tweeting it to a Sunday Times reporter, after the reporter commented on how good it was for a debut novel - that has all been confirmed by the agency.

    Unless the above line is badly phrased and is meant to say "recently were employed to confirm prior reports that..." - it didn't reveal anything of the sort, the link had already been revealed by plain old journalism.

    • by jabuzz (182671) on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:10PM (#44478021) Homepage

      No it was revealed by a partner at the law firm who should have known better, and should now face sanctions from the Law Society. Being struck of the register would be about right.

      On the other hand they have already reached an out of court settlement for a substantial sum, which probably came out the partners own pocket. I would also imagine the firm has lost the JKR account.

      • Well I heard it was revealed by the wife of a partner. Slightly better but not by much.
        • by sribe (304414)

          Well I heard it was revealed by the wife of a partner. Slightly better but not by much.

          Was the wife legal counsel to J.K. Rowling? No? Well, then, it was revealed by the partner. That he revealed it to his wife first, or perhaps only, is completely irrelevant.

  • A million college students are waiting anxiously for this tool now that some professors have started checking their essays electronically for plagarism.
    • by epine (68316)

      A million college students are waiting anxiously for this tool now that some professors have started checking their essays electronically for plagarism.

      This assumes that they're as stupid as we all suspect, because the next thing the administration begins to do is check whether the student's written oeuvre is self-consistent without bunkering down under a blander identity than a Milli Vanilli cover of Valium Spice.

      I'm so busted.

  • Profit does. When your bottom line depends on keeping schools convinced that you're indispensable in the War On Plagiarism you damn well find plagiarism everywhere you can, whether or not it's actually there. There are approximately 80 MILLION students in the US, with our education system being as repetitive and formulaic as it is it becomes a virtual certainty that out of 80,000,000 students a significant number will say the same thing the same way.

    • by zildgulf (1116981)
      It is even worse in detecting plagiarism in Computer Program since there is a small subset of algorithms that would be the most efficient or easiest to code. If you have 50 students to program a sort you are going to get several of the nearly identical program.
      • Long long ago, in a computer teaching lab 30 miles away, I had 20 assignments turned in to me for grading. Of them, I had seventeen identical, bizarre wrong answers. Seriously, people... if you're going to cheat, at least copy from someone who isn't high/psycho/retarded.

      • It's pretty easy to tell who plagiarized in a programming course when multiple students are wrong in the same way though.
        • Finding plagiarism when it comes to coding is mainly a matter of style. Students should be encouraged to talk to each other about doing their homework. That doesn't mean that they should copy whole problems verbatim from one another though.

          Look at the whole rangecheck(...) debacle. The algorithm wasn't secret by any means. The whole issue came about because the same coder wrote both functions. He has his own programming style that becomes immediately apparent when comparing small snippets of code like

          • by unrtst (777550)

            Off topic, but the braces format question will get better answers if it's phrased differently, such as:

            a)
            if (...) {
            } else {
            }

            b)
            if (...)
            {
            }
            else
            {
            }

            c)
            if (...) {
            }
            else {
            }

            Prior to "Perl Best Practices", I preferred to use an inconsistent style of:

            if (...)
            {
            } else {
            }

            The different handling of elsif and else's compared to if's always bothered me, but I found the lined up braces much more pleasing. I didn't like option "b" because the else's take up WAY too much vertical room. Option "c" is now my personal preference.
            YMM

  • I am sorry, but as far as literature goes, writing style anonymization (is that a word?) would harm the original intent of the author. A literary work is valuable (when so) due to author's style, among other factors, much like in movies, where a certain actor's voiceover is best for a certain character. The same character would become retarded if the actor's voice changes. Imagine Donkey (from Shrek) played by Morgan Freeman or Darth Vader played by Danny de Vito. Good characters, good actors, no match in s

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      I doubt this would be used to protect pen names of literary authors, but it could have important applications for whistleblowers and people who want to denounce things without getting traced down. Basically, any situation where the style is of little to no importance compared to the content.
    • Stephen King (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday August 05, 2013 @01:02PM (#44478527) Homepage Journal

      Stephen King seems to agree with you.

      In his book "On Writing [amazon.com]", he explains (among many other good points) that one hallmark of good writing is finding the right combination of words for imagery.

      He uses examples like "I lit a cigarette, tasted like a plumber's handkerchief'" from Raymond Chandler and "'It was darker than a carload of assholes' by George V Higgins.

      The Odyssey (IIRC) has the phrase "it was a wine dark sea", so this has been around for a very long time.

      For casual writing the project may be useful, but I wonder how much imagery will be lost in translation.

      Many of the works of revolutionaries, radicals, and dissenters are memorable for their specific imagery. Simon Sinek analyzed "I have a dream [wikipedia.org]", and noted the difference between "I have a dream" and "I have a plan". The two are very different, and have different effects on people. (Viz. TED talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action" [ted.com])

      I'm doubtful that AI has progressed to the point where the mood and emotional content will be preserved in such a translation.

      To be effective, defiant writing will still require courage.

      • This isn't for people who want to be known by their writing.

      • Just one mention: I think I agree with Stephen King, not the other way around. After all, I heard of him (as a matter of fact, I just finished reading The Long March and started Misery) but I highly doubt he ever heard of me :)

        • An excellent point, I will try to remember this in future writing. It's the sort of thing you don't get in a writing course, for which I am grateful.

          Thanks.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        > For casual writing the project may be useful, but I wonder how much imagery will be lost in
        > translation.

        Except, did they not say it "suggests changes"? Doesn't that still leave the author free to either take the suggestion, or select a different phrasing or imagery choice?

        I mean if it comes to "Wine dark sea" and suggests instead "deep red sea", or "sea of dark wine" I would assume the author would understand his original meaning and be able to work from there, and then iterate through it again to

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "To be effective, defiant writing will still require courage."

        Surviving to be defiant may require anonymity.

    • Imagine Donkey (from Shrek) played by Morgan Freeman or Darth Vader played by Danny de Vito.

      I'd pay to watch either of those.

      • As a matter of fact, you'd probably pay to watch an excerpt of 2 minutes of either of those.
        I once watched "Twins" (Arnold&DeVito) dubbed in Hungarian. it was hilarious... for a few minutes. Then it was annoying, then I couldn't handle it anymore.

      • Imagine Donkey (from Shrek) played by Morgan Freeman or Darth Vader played by Danny de Vito.

        Imagine Eddie Murphy playing a Chinese Dragon in Mulan. Oh wait...

    • >>Darth Vader played by Danny de Vito

      Which is one reason why Spaceballs was so darned funny. Rik Moranis as Darth Helmet... almost the exact opposite of a James Earl Jones voice and style wise.

  • ... in the rest of your digital life.

    In light of recent events -and I'm not only referring to the NSA-gate, but also to all the known ways to get your private information- it is hard for me to figure out a digital way of keeping your identity secret in a high profile incident.

  • This is he next step in surveillance, if he government isn't doing it already. Binding together various accounts of yours based on statistics of phrases.

    And it's redundant since they have a database of all IP connections, web pages, and stuff you type in anyway. Sigh. I suppose it will make confirmation of these AI. techniques trivial. Yey.

  • Surely one could simply auto-translate their prose into another language and back to avoid stylometric identification?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Certainly one can simply translating their prose mechanism to another language and back to avoid identifying stylometric?

      Surely, one can only auto-interpretation of their prose to another language and back to avoid stylometric identification?

      Of course, you could just automatically translate your prose into another language and back again, in order to avoid the stylometric identification?

      Surely one will simply start their prose-translation to other languages ââand back to avoid stylometric about yo

    • by eyenot (102141)

      First of all, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMkJuDVJdTw [youtube.com] (YouTube)

      Second of all:

      "Of course you can, just stylometric identification and back home in order to prevent another language is automatically translated prose?" -- (Haitian Creole -> Azerbaijani -> Slovenian -> English ...)

      "Not even the same language at home and another stylometric can automatically translated into prose?" -- ( ... Irish -> Hebrew -> Czech -> English ...)

      "Not even in the same language and prose automatically t

      • by eyenot (102141)

        i got the order of translation mixed up but same story. The Urdu-led translation trip was second, then led by the Irish, then the Japanese.

  • by greywire (78262) on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:15PM (#44478065) Homepage
    So, can any mediocre author convert his story to the style of a known good author using this?
    • by tgd (2822)

      So, can any mediocre author convert his story to the style of a known good author using this?

      There's hope for Slashdot's editors! Huzzah!

    • by dlenmn (145080)

      Speaking as someone who's done a little work in stylometry, I'm sure that it's a lot easier to make your work look like it's not yours than it is to make your work look like a specific different person's. I haven't looked at this project, but I'm guessing that it'll do the former. If I made software that could do the latter, then I'd be loudly advertising that fact, or I'd keep silent and make use of it...

    • I'm more curious what happens to the marketability of one's writing when they are no longer using their own writing style.
  • Just don't lick the envelope.
  • Sounds like some company is trying to toot their own horn here or something, but AI didn't out J.K. Rowling. Her lawyers friend did. http://www.businessinsider.com/russells-apologizes-to-jk-rowling-2013-7 [businessinsider.com]
  • MS did this years ago built into their speech recognition but failed to market it as a useful feature.

    Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all

  • Way back, in the dim, distant past of the bucolic walled gardens that preceded the Internet as we know it ... there was AOL. AOL had walled predator-free gardens within gardens, where only teens younger than 18 were supposed to be communicating.

    There were rumors that evil pedophiles were lurking in these gardens, so I made a sub-account for a totally bogus 16-year old boy named Alex. And Alex went forth to play.

    All was going well, Alex was quite a popular young man amongst his peers and had lured ZERO pedop

  • JStylo-Anonymouth (JSAN)?! Could you possible have come up with any more clunky name than that? ;) Damn, I should set up some agency just to create punchy names for all these projects.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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