Text analysis in adversarial settings: Does deception leave a stylistic trace?

Tommi Gröndahl, N. Asokan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
556 Downloads (Pure)


Textual deception constitutes a major problem for online security. Many studies have argued that deceptiveness leaves traces in writing style, which could be detected using text classification techniques. By conducting an extensive literature review of existing empirical work, we demonstrate that while certain linguistic features have been indicative of deception in certain corpora, they fail to generalize across divergent semantic domains. We suggest that deceptiveness as such leaves no content-invariant stylistic trace, and textual similarity measures provide a superior means of classifying texts as potentially deceptive. Additionally, we discuss forms of deception beyond semantic content, focusing on hiding author identity by writing style obfuscation. Surveying the literature on both author identification and obfuscation techniques, we conclude that current style transformation methods fail to achieve reliable obfuscation while simultaneously ensuring semantic faithfulness to the original text. We propose that future work in style transformation should pay particular attention to disallowing semantically drastic changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
Pages (from-to)1-36
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Author identification
  • Deanonymization
  • Deception
  • Stylometry
  • Text obfuscation


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