AI-text detection tools are really easy to fool

gettyimages 1365078810.jpeg
gettyimages 1365078810.jpeg

Daphne Ippolito, a senior research scientist at Google specializing in natural-language generation, who also did not work on the project, raises another concern.

“If automatic detection systems are to be employed in education settings, it is crucial to understand their rates of false positives, as incorrectly accusing a student of cheating can have dire consequences for their academic career,” she says. “The false-negative rate is also important, because if too many AI-generated texts pass as human written, the detection system is not useful.” 

Compilatio, which makes one of the tools tested by the researchers, says it is important to remember that its system just indicates suspect passages, which it classifies as potential plagiarism or content potentially generated by AI.

“It is up to the schools and teachers who mark the documents analyzed to validate or impute the knowledge actually acquired by the author of the document, for example by putting in place additional means of investigation—oral questioning, additional questions in a controlled classroom environment, etc.,” a Compilatio spokesperson said.

“In this way, Compilatio tools are part of a genuine teaching approach that encourages learning about good research, writing, and citation practices. Compilatio software is a correction aid, not a corrector,” the spokesperson added. Turnitin and GPT Zero did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Our detection model is based on the notable differences between the more idiosyncratic, unpredictable nature of human writing and the very predictable statistical signatures of AI generated text,” Annie Chechitelli, TurnItIn’s chief product officer, says.

“However, our AI writing detection feature simply alerts the user to the presence of AI writing, highlighting areas where further discussion may be necessary. It does not determine the appropriate or inappropriate use of AI writing tools, or whether that use constitutes cheating or misconduct based on the assessment and the instruction provided by the teacher.”

We’ve known for some time that tools meant to detect AI-written text don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. Earlier this year, OpenAI unveiled a tool designed to detect text produced by ChatGPT, admitting that it flagged only 26% of AI-written text as “likely AI-written.” OpenAI pointed MIT Technology Review towards a section on its website for educator considerations, which warns that tools designed to detect AI-generated content are “far from foolproof.”

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