Media News

When your business news content gets stolen by AI

June 11, 2024

Posted by Chris Roush

Randall Lane

Forbes chief content officer Randall Lane writes about the impact of Perplexity taking the business news organization’s content without its permission and publishing it.

Lane writes, “When Forbes Executive Editor John Paczkowski called out Srinivas on X for what the company had done, Srinivas responded that this new ‘product feature’ had some ‘rough edges.’ (‘Product feature sound nice, but us media types call it plagiarism,’ longtime tech journalist Kara Swisher adroitly responded on X.) And that was that: the story wasn’t removed, nor was there an apology, nor was the story corrected to provide more transparent attribution within the text. Just some thanks, as Srinivas said this incident would help make things better going forward for…Perplexity. AI loves to learn, after all. (And in fact, the startup quietly changed the formatting of its blog posts to highlight the sources more prominently and to include images’ sources — but there’s still no attribution in the story itself.)

“From there Srinivas doubled-down, using the incident as an excuse to brag about what Perplexity does for the media sites it steals from. ‘Perplexity has been the #2 referral source for Forbes (behind only Wikipedia) and the top referrer for other publishers,’ he wrote on X — disingenuously.

“Referral traffic, which just means the traffic that comes from links within stories, comprises maybe 3% of our total audience. It doesn’t cover, among other things, social media, aggregators or search. (Did we mention that Perplexity is a search engine?) Factor all of that in, and Perplexity rates as our 54th biggest traffic source in terms of users — or 0.014%. Not exactly the savior of journalism Srinivas tried to position himself as — though maybe Forbes is saving him. Perplexity generated more readers from the one Schmidt story it plagiarized from Forbes than it sent to Forbes from any and every post for the entire month of May. In AI nowadays, that trade gets you a billion-dollar valuation.

“Why is all this important? It’s the perfect case study for this critical moment. AI is only as good as the people overseeing it. I’m an AI bull, and in the right hands, productivity and advances and prosperity await. But in the hands of the likes of Srinivas — who has the reputation as being great at the PhD tech stuff and less-than-great at the basic human stuff — amorality poses existential risk.”

Read more here.

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