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Automated Authorship Verification: Did We Really Write Those Blogs We Said We Wrote?

Wolfram Blog – May 28, 2019Daniel Lichtblau, Symbolic Algorithms Developer, Algorithms R&D – “Several Months Ago – I wrote a blog post about the disputed Federalist Papers. These were the 12 essays (out of a total of 85) with authorship claimed by both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Ever since the landmark statistical study by Mosteller and Wallace published in 1963, the consensus opinion has been that all 12 were written by Madison (the Adair article of 1944, which also takes this position, discusses the long history of competing authorship claims for these essays). The field of work that gave rise to the methods used often goes by the name of “stylometry,” and it lies behind most methods for determining authorship from text alone (that is to say, in the absence of other information such as a physical typewritten or handwritten note). In the case of the disputed essays, the pool size, at just two, is as small as can be. Even so, these essays have been regarded as difficult for authorship attribution due to many statistical similarities in style shared by Hamilton and Madison.S ince late 2016 I have worked with a coauthor, Catalin Stoean, on a method for determining authorship from among a pool of candidate authors. When we applied our methods to the disputed essays, we were surprised to find that the results did not fully align with consensus. In particular, the last two showed clear signs of joint authorship, with perhaps the larger contributions coming from Hamilton. This result is all the more plausible because we had done validation tests that were close to perfect in terms of correctly predicting the author for various parts of those essays of known authorship. These validation tests were, as best we could tell, more extensive than all others we found in prior literature.

Clearly a candidate pool of two is, for the purposes at hand, quite small. Not as small as one, of course, but still small. While our method might not perform well if given hundreds or more candidate authors, it does seem to do well at the more modest (but still important) scale of tens of candidates. The purpose of this blog post is to continue testing our stylometry methods—this time on a larger set of candidates, using prior Wolfram Blog posts as our data source…”

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