Quora’s chatbot platform Poe allows users to download paywalled articles on demand

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Poe, an AI chatbot platform owned by question-and-answer site Quora and backed by a $75 million Andreessen Horowitz investment, is offering users downloadable HTML files of articles published by paywalled journalism outlets.

For example, telling the service’s assistant bot the URL of this WIRED story about how the AI-powered search service Perplexity copied one of our stories returned a 1-MB file containing a detailed, 235-word summary and an HTML capture of the entire article, which users could download from the chatbot directly from Poe’s servers.

Similarly WIRED was able to obtain articles from paywalled sites such as the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, Forbes, Defector and 404 Media in downloadable format simply by entering the URLs into the assistant bot’s interface. This appears to be the latest example of the AI ​​industry’s reckless attitude towards intellectual property law, which is rapidly undermining existing business models in sectors such as journalism and music.

“This is an important copyright issue,” James Grimmelmann, a professor of digital and information law at Cornell University, wrote in an email. “Because they made a copy on their server, this is prima facie copyright infringement.” (Quora disputes this, comparing Poe to a cloud storage service.)

When asked to summarize the content of a test website controlled by my colleague Dhruv Mehrotra, the bot did not provide a summary but instead returned an HTML file. According to the website’s server logs, shortly after the helper bot was prompted to summarize the site, a server identifying itself as “Quora Bot” visited the site. It did not attempt to visit the site’s robots.txt page, which suggests that Poe and Quora ignore the robots exclusion protocol, a widely accepted though not legally binding web standard.

One prominent media executive, whom WIRED granted anonymity so he could freely discuss a legally sensitive matter that his company is actively investigating, says his publication has also noticed that some servers, identifying themselves as Quora bots, reach Poe’s site shortly after her chatbot is prompted for specific articles; he says these prompts retrieve most or all of the text of these articles.

“Poe is a platform that allows users to ask questions and communicate back and forth with various AI-powered bots provided by third parties,” Quora spokesperson Autumn Besselman wrote in an email. “We do not own or train our own AI models. Poe has a feature that enables a user to show the bot the content of a URL, but the bot will only see the content that is given to it by the domain. We would be happy to engage with your technical team so they can ensure that your paywalled content is not served to people using Poe.”

“File attachments on Poe are created at the instruction of users and function similarly to cloud storage services, ‘read later’ services, and ‘web clipper’ products, which we believe are compliant with copyright law,” Besselmann wrote in response to an email asking follow-up questions. Andreessen Horowitz did not respond to a request for comment.

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