This Chrome Extension Helps Students Prove AI Didn't Write Their Essays

As artificial intelligence systems continue to grow in popularity around the internet, the debate around them, and the nightmare scenarios that the technology could lead to, has only intensified. However, a more pressing concern today is that an AI bot can write anything with a quick prompt that individuals, be they adults or schoolchildren, could use to create written works that aren't truly theirs. Unfortunately, this concern has also created an opposite problem — students who are exceptionally talented writers have found themselves under suspicion of writing their essays with AI assistance.

As it so happens, though, a Google Chrome extension released in February of 2022 has proven very beneficial in verifying the authenticity of students' homework. It's called Draftback, and it's designed to outline a writer's creative timeline from start to finish, showcasing in the process that there was no AI assistance involved. Whether you need a way to prove that your words are your own or you just need a way to trace back your weird ideas, Draftback can take you on a trip to the not-too-distant past.

What is Draftback and how do you use it?

Draftback is a Google Chrome browser extension available as a free download from the Chrome Web Store. When installed, Draftback adds a special button to the top of a Google Doc interface that retraces the entire revision history of the document. As the extension's creator, writer, and programmer James Somers explains on the extension's Chome Web Store page, "It's like going back in time to look over your own shoulder as you write."

When you click the Draftback button, a secondary window pops up showing a timeline of the document. When you press play, you can see every single entry and revision that went into it playing out like a movie. You can even fast-forward and rewind. The timeline features a precise timestamp showing when work was conducted on the document and for how long. 

Besides the timeline, Draftback also provides a data and stat summary, including a graph showing when and where the document was altered. If AI-produced text were copied and pasted into a document, the Draftback timeline would show it all appearing at once. Ergo, if the timeline does not show that, it definitively proves that a student wrote their entire essay themselves.

For those concerned about privacy, Somers pledges on the extension's Web Store page that all Draftback data is exclusively stored locally. You can embed a piece of your playback elsewhere on the web if you so choose, but beyond that your Draftback data is just for you.