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Workshop: Socially Responsible Language Modelling Research (SoLaR)

Towards Optimal Statistical Watermarking

Baihe Huang · Banghua Zhu · Hanlin Zhu · Jason Lee · Jiantao Jiao · Michael Jordan

Abstract: We study statistical watermarking by formulating it as a hypothesis testing problem, a general framework which subsumes all previous statistical watermarking methods. Key to our formulation is a coupling of the output tokens and the rejection region, realized by pseudo-random generators in practice, that allows non-trivial trade-off between the Type I error and Type II error. We characterize the Uniformly Most Powerful (UMP) watermark in this context. In the most common scenario where the output is a sequence of $n$ tokens, we establish matching upper and lower bounds on the number of i.i.d. tokens required to guarantee small Type I and Type II errors. Our rate scales as $\Theta(h^{-1} \log (1/h))$ with respect to the average entropy per token $h$ and thus greatly improves the $O(h^{-2})$ rate in the previous works. Moreover, we formulate the robust watermarking problem where user is allowed to perform a class of perturbation on the generated texts, and characterize the optimal type II error of robust UMP tests via a linear programming problem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first systematic statistical treatment on the watermarking problem with near-optimal rates in the i.i.d. setting, and might be of interest for future works.

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