Forbes accuses Perplexity of improper attribution in AI-generated content

PerplexityAI faces criticism for unethical content sourcing

by Faruk Imamovic
Forbes accuses Perplexity of improper attribution in AI-generated content
© X/TalkAIToday

Perplexity, a popular AI search engine, has recently found itself at the center of a growing controversy. With a valuation surpassing $1 billion, thanks to high-profile investments from figures like Jeff Bezos and Nvidia, Perplexity is designed to scan the internet in real time, delivering instant responses to user queries. However, its innovative approach has sparked significant backlash, with accusations of unethical practices in content sourcing and attribution.

Forbes' accusation

The incident that ignited the firestorm occurred shortly after Forbes published an investigative article about a new AI-drone startup founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Perplexity, seizing the moment, used its AI capabilities to generate a webpage about the investigation, shared with its subscribers through the "Perplexity Pages" feature. According to John Paczkowski, executive editor at Forbes, the AI-generated content "rips off most of our reporting." He criticized the platform for burying the citation in a way that users could easily overlook, thereby misrepresenting the original source of the content.

In response to the criticism, Perplexity's CEO, Aravind Srinivas, acknowledged the oversight, admitting the product's "rough edges" and expressing a commitment to improve the visibility and accessibility of source attributions in their AI-generated content. Despite these assurances and subsequent updates to the AI-generated webpage, a related AI-generated podcast by Perplexity failed to adequately credit Forbes, further fueling discontent among the original content creators.

The Broader Implications and Media Response

Following the Forbes incident, other publications voiced similar concerns. Wired launched an investigation into Perplexity's practices, revealing that the AI seemed to paraphrase and sometimes inaccurately summarize stories from Wired itself, often with minimal attribution. Moreover, Wired's report suggested that Perplexity might be circumventing publishers' attempts to block AI web scraping, potentially by using undisclosed methods like "secret IP addresses."

The growing scrutiny culminated in Forbes threatening legal action against Perplexity, demanding adjustments in how AI-generated articles cite sources and seeking compensation for advertising revenues derived from content based on Forbes' investigative reporting. In a statement to Axios, Forbes expressed its anticipation of a prompt response from Perplexity and reserved the right to take further action to protect its journalistic integrity.