Perturbation Augmentation for Fairer NLP

Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)


Unwanted and often harmful social biases are becoming ever more salient in NLP research, affecting both models and datasets. In this work, we ask whether training on demographically perturbed data leads to fairer language models. We collect a large dataset of human annotated text perturbations and train a neural perturbation model, which we show outperforms heuristic alternatives. We find that (i) language models (LMs) pre-trained on demographically perturbed corpora are typically more fair, and (ii) LMs finetuned on perturbed GLUE datasets exhibit less demographic bias on downstream tasks, and (iii) fairness improvements do not come at the expense of performance on downstream tasks. Lastly, we discuss outstanding questions about how best to evaluate the (un)fairness of large language models. We hope that this exploration of neural demographic perturbation will help drive more improvement towards fairer NLP.

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