Collaborating Authors


Adversarial Socialbot Learning via Multi-Agent Deep Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning Artificial Intelligence

Socialbots are software-driven user accounts on social platforms, acting autonomously (mimicking human behavior), with the aims to influence the opinions of other users or spread targeted misinformation for particular goals. As socialbots undermine the ecosystem of social platforms, they are often considered harmful. As such, there have been several computational efforts to auto-detect the socialbots. However, to our best knowledge, the adversarial nature of these socialbots has not yet been studied. This begs a question "can adversaries, controlling socialbots, exploit AI techniques to their advantage?" To this question, we successfully demonstrate that indeed it is possible for adversaries to exploit computational learning mechanism such as reinforcement learning (RL) to maximize the influence of socialbots while avoiding being detected. We first formulate the adversarial socialbot learning as a cooperative game between two functional hierarchical RL agents. While one agent curates a sequence of activities that can avoid the detection, the other agent aims to maximize network influence by selectively connecting with right users. Our proposed policy networks train with a vast amount of synthetic graphs and generalize better than baselines on unseen real-life graphs both in terms of maximizing network influence (up to +18%) and sustainable stealthiness (up to +40% undetectability) under a strong bot detector (with 90% detection accuracy). During inference, the complexity of our approach scales linearly, independent of a network's structure and the virality of news. This makes our approach a practical adversarial attack when deployed in a real-life setting.

CASPR: A Commonsense Reasoning-based Conversational Socialbot Artificial Intelligence

We report on the design and development of the CASPR system, a socialbot designed to compete in the Amazon Alexa Socialbot Challenge 4. CASPR's distinguishing characteristic is that it will use automated commonsense reasoning to truly "understand" dialogs, allowing it to converse like a human. Three main requirements of a socialbot are that it should be able to "understand" users' utterances, possess a strategy for holding a conversation, and be able to learn new knowledge. We developed techniques such as conversational knowledge template (CKT) to approximate commonsense reasoning needed to hold a conversation on specific topics. We present the philosophy behind CASPR's design as well as details of its implementation. We also report on CASPR's performance as well as discuss lessons learned.

Modular DREAM Socialbot in Alexa Prize


In the spring of 2019, a team of students from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) under the leadership of Mikhail Burtsev was selected to participate in the Alexa Prize Challenge 3 from Amazon. That is the official beginning of the DREAM socialbot development which is now alive and is 2 years old already. Our journey in Alexa Prize Challenge 3 ended in May 2020 after the Semifinals as we were not selected to pass to Finals unfortunately. But we managed to create our first version of DREAM socialbot using the open-source DeepPavlov Agent framework. After the Semifinals we spent 4 months adding the support for working with the Knowledge Graphs (KGs), with the goal of eventually open-sourcing the entire bot in the second half of 2020. However, in late September, Amazon announced Alexa Prize Challenge 4, and our application was proudly selected for participation again.

DiscASP: A Graph-based ASP System for Finding Relevant Consistent Concepts with Applications to Conversational Socialbots Artificial Intelligence

We consider the problem of finding relevant consistent concepts in a conversational AI system, particularly, for realizing a conversational socialbot. Commonsense knowledge about various topics can be represented as an answer set program. However, to advance the conversation, we need to solve the problem of finding relevant consistent concepts, i.e., find consistent knowledge in the "neighborhood" of the current topic being discussed that can be used to advance the conversation. Traditional ASP solvers will generate the whole answer set which is stripped of all the associations between the various atoms (concepts) and thus cannot be used to find relevant consistent concepts. Similarly, goal-directed implementations of ASP will only find concepts directly relevant to a query. We present the DiscASP system that will find the partial consistent model that is relevant to a given topic in a manner similar to how a human will find it. DiscASP is based on a novel graph-based algorithm for finding stable models of an answer set program. We present the DiscASP algorithm, its implementation, and its application to developing a conversational socialbot.

Alquist 4.0: Towards Social Intelligence Using Generative Models and Dialogue Personalization Artificial Intelligence

The open domain-dialogue system Alquist has a goal to conduct a coherent and engaging conversation that can be considered as one of the benchmarks of social intelligence. The fourth version of the system, developed within the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4, brings two main innovations. The first addresses coherence, and the second addresses the engagingness of the conversation. For innovations regarding coherence, we propose a novel hybrid approach combining hand-designed responses and a generative model. The proposed approach utilizes hand-designed dialogues, out-of-domain detection, and a neural response generator. Hand-designed dialogues walk the user through high-quality conversational flows. The out-of-domain detection recognizes that the user diverges from the predefined flow and prevents the system from producing a scripted response that might not make sense for unexpected user input. Finally, the neural response generator generates a response based on the context of the dialogue that correctly reacts to the unexpected user input and returns the dialogue to the boundaries of hand-designed dialogues. The innovations for engagement that we propose are mostly inspired by the famous exploration-exploitation dilemma. To conduct an engaging conversation with the dialogue partners, one has to learn their preferences and interests -- exploration. Moreover, to engage the partner, we have to utilize the knowledge we have already learned -- exploitation. In this work, we present the principles and inner workings of individual components of the open-domain dialogue system Alquist developed within the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 4 and the experiments we have conducted to evaluate them.

Proto: A Neural Cocktail for Generating Appealing Conversations Artificial Intelligence

In this paper, we present our Alexa Prize Grand Challenge 4 socialbot: Proto. Leveraging diverse sources of world knowledge, and powered by a suite of neural and rule-based natural language understanding modules, state-of-the-art neural generators, novel state-based deterministic generators, an ensemble of neural re-rankers, a robust post-processing algorithm, and an efficient overall conversation strategy, Proto strives to be able to converse coherently about a diverse range of topics of interest to humans, and provide a memorable experience to the user. In this paper we dissect and analyze the different components and conversation strategies implemented by our socialbot, which enables us to generate colloquial, empathetic, engaging, self-rectifying, factually correct, and on-topic response, which has helped us achieve consistent scores throughout the competition.

Emora: An Inquisitive Social Chatbot Who Cares For You Artificial Intelligence

Inspired by studies on the overwhelming presence of experience-sharing in human-human conversations, Emora, the social chatbot developed by Emory University, aims to bring such experience-focused interaction to the current field of conversational AI. The traditional approach of information-sharing topic handlers is balanced with a focus on opinion-oriented exchanges that Emora delivers, and new conversational abilities are developed that support dialogues that consist of a collaborative understanding and learning process of the partner's life experiences. We present a curated dialogue system that leverages highly expressive natural language templates, powerful intent classification, and ontology resources to provide an engaging and interesting conversational experience to every user.

Neural Generation Meets Real People: Towards Emotionally Engaging Mixed-Initiative Conversations Artificial Intelligence

Building an open-domain socialbot that talks to real people is challenging - such a system must meet multiple user expectations such as broad world knowledge, conversational style, and emotional connection. Our socialbot engages users on their terms - prioritizing their interests, feelings and autonomy. As a result, our socialbot provides a responsive, personalized user experience, capable of talking knowledgeably about a wide variety of topics, as well as chatting empathetically about ordinary life. Neural generation plays a key role in achieving these goals, providing the backbone for our conversational and emotional tone. At the end of the competition, Chirpy Cardinal progressed to the finals with an average rating of 3.6/5.0,

Amazon Releases Data Set of Annotated Conversations to Aid Development of Socialbots : Alexa Blogs


Today I am happy to announce the public release of the Topical Chat Dataset, a text-based collection of more than 235,000 utterances (over 4,700,000 words) that will help support high-quality, repeatable research in the field of dialogue systems. The goal of Topical Chat is to enable innovative research in knowledge-grounded neural response-generation systems by tackling hard challenges that are not addressed by other publicly available datasets. Those challenges, which we have seen universities begin to tackle in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, include transitioning between topics in a natural manner, knowledge selection and enrichment, and integration of fact and opinion into dialogue. Each conversation in the data set refers to a group of three related entities, and every turn of conversation is supported by an extract from a collection of unstructured or loosely structured text resources. To our knowledge, Topical Chat is the largest social-conversation and knowledge dataset available publicly to the research community.

Advancing the State of the Art in Open Domain Dialog Systems through the Alexa Prize Artificial Intelligence

Building open domain conversational systems that allow users to have engaging conversations on topics of their choice is a challenging task. Alexa Prize was launched in 2016 to tackle the problem of achieving natural, sustained, coherent and engaging open-domain dialogs. In the second iteration of the competition in 2018, university teams advanced the state of the art by using context in dialog models, leveraging knowledge graphs for language understanding, handling complex utterances, building statistical and hierarchical dialog managers, and leveraging model-driven signals from user responses. The 2018 competition also included the provision of a suite of tools and models to the competitors including the CoBot (conversational bot) toolkit, topic and dialog act detection models, conversation evaluators, and a sensitive content detection model so that the competing teams could focus on building knowledge-rich, coherent and engaging multi-turn dialog systems. This paper outlines the advances developed by the university teams as well as the Alexa Prize team to achieve the common goal of advancing the science of Conversational AI. We address several key open-ended problems such as conversational speech recognition, open domain natural language understanding, commonsense reasoning, statistical dialog management and dialog evaluation. These collaborative efforts have driven improved experiences by Alexa users to an average rating of 3.61, median duration of 2 mins 18 seconds, and average turns to 14.6, increases of 14%, 92%, 54% respectively since the launch of the 2018 competition. For conversational speech recognition, we have improved our relative Word Error Rate by 55% and our relative Entity Error Rate by 34% since the launch of the Alexa Prize. Socialbots improved in quality significantly more rapidly in 2018, in part due to the release of the CoBot toolkit, with new entrants attaining an average rating of 3.35 just 1 week into the semifinals, compared to 9 weeks in the 2017 competition.