Identifying unreliable and adversarial workers in crowdsourced labeling tasks

Srikanth Jagabathula, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, Ashwin Venkataraman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the problem of identifying unreliable and adversarial workers in crowdsourcing systems where workers (or users) provide labels for tasks (or items). Most existing studies assume that worker responses follow specific probabilistic models; however, recent evidence shows the presence of workers adopting non-random or even malicious strategies. To account for such workers, we suppose that workers comprise a mixture of honest and adversarial workers. Honest workers may be reliable or unreliable, and they provide labels according to an unknown but explicit probabilistic model. Adversaries adopt labeling strategies different from those of honest workers, whether probabilistic or not. We propose two reputation algorithms to identify unreliable honest workers and adversarial workers from only their responses. Our algorithms assume that honest workers are in the majority, and they classify workers with outlier label patterns as adversaries. Theoretically, we show that our algorithms successfully identify unreliable honest workers, workers adopting deterministic strategies, and worst-case sophisticated adversaries who can adopt arbitrary labeling strategies to degrade the accuracy of the inferred task labels. Empirically, we show that filtering out outliers using our algorithms can significantly improve the accuracy of several state-of-the-art label aggregation algorithms in real-world crowdsourcing datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-67
Number of pages67
JournalJournal of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Adversary
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Outliers
  • Reputation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Statistics and Probability


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