Computer Scientist Who Leaked J.K. Rowling’s Pseudonym Uses Program to Preserve Writers’ Anonymity

Patrick Juola created software that identified Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym, Robert Galbraith.


Juola is a computer scientist at Duquesne University and he is developing software that removes unique words, sentence structures, and phrases from a piece of writing to secure the anonymity for the author.


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“Each person has an individual style of speaking and writing,” said Patrick Juola. “Some people use bigger words than other people, but it’s not necessarily a very good indicator by itself, partly because most people use words of about average length.”


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Juola is the director for Duquesne’s Evaluating Variations in Language Lab, and what the software is capable of doing is preserving the author’s true identity by removing the identifiable features within their usual writing style.


The question comes to mind, who would need a tool like this?


“If you were an anonymous whistleblower, like the person who wrote that op-ed for the New York Times about the resistance within the Trump Administration,” said Juola. “If we could have a genuinely anonymous way of communicating, then that would encourage people to come forward and increase corporate and governmental transparency.”


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Not only does this program protect the individual’s identity but the possibility of detecting copyright issues.


“Possibly this could be used for plagiarism,” said undergrad researcher David Berdik. “Say I take a fellow student’s paper and want to submit it to a teacher or professor. I just run it through this program, and it could change it up.”


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The project builds on the previous plan of identifying anonymous authors like how he famously revealed the Harry Potter author Robert Galbraith.


The National Science Foundation presented $300,000 grant, and Juola said he hopes to field test the new software for the next three years.


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