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CF-GNNExplainer: Counterfactual Explanations for Graph Neural Networks

Ana Lucic · Maartje ter Hoeve · Gabriele Tolomei · Maarten de Rijke · Fabrizio Silvestri


Given the increasing promise of graph neural networks (GNNs) in real-world applications, several methods have been developed for explaining their predictions. Existing methods for interpreting predictions from GNNs have primarily focused on generating subgraphs that are especially relevant for a particular prediction. However, such methods are not counterfactual (CF) in nature: given a prediction, we want to understand how the prediction can be changed in order to achieve an alternative outcome. In this work, we propose a method for generating CF explanations for GNNs: the minimal perturbation to the input (graph) data such that the prediction changes. Using only edge deletions, we find that our method, CF-GNNExplainer, can generate CF explanations for the majority of instances across three widely used datasets for GNN explanations, while removing less than 3 edges on average, with at least 94\% accuracy. This indicates that CF-GNNExplainer primarily removes edges that are crucial for the original predictions, resulting in minimal CF explanations.

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