Virtual evidence (VE), first introduced by (Pearl, 1988), provides a convenient way of incorporating prior knowledge into Bayesian networks. This work generalizes the use of VE to undirected graphical models and, in particular, to conditional random fields (CRFs). We show that VE can be naturally encoded into a CRF model as potential functions. More
importantly, we propose a novel semisupervised machine learning objective for estimating a CRF model integrated with VE. The objective can be optimized using the Expectation-Maximization algorithm while maintaining the discriminative nature of CRFs. When evaluated on the CLASSIFIEDS data, our approach significantly outperforms the best known solutions reported on this task.