Amazon probes Perplexity AI for alleged content scraping

Amazon is reviewing allegations that Perplexity AI, an artificial intelligence startup, has been scraping content from major news websites without permission.

An Amazon spokesperson said on Friday (June 28) that the company is looking into several reports from WIRED and Forbes that claim that Perplexity has been accessing content from websites that explicitly prohibit such scraping practices. Perplexity operates using servers provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The representative also noted that all AWS clients are required to adhere to the instructions in the robots.txt file. These files are generally used on websites to instruct bots and web crawlers to refrain from scraping their data, whether for generative AI tools or other uses.

“AWS’s terms of service prohibit abusive and illegal activities and our customers are responsible for complying with those terms. We routinely receive reports of alleged abuse from a variety of sources and engage our customers to understand those reports,” the representative said.

Forbes’ editor and chief content officer, Randall Lane, charged Perplexity with committing “cynical theft,” accusing the company of creating “knockoff stories” that contain “eerily similar wording” and “entirely lifted fragments” from its articles.

He added: “More egregiously, the post, which looked and read like a piece of journalism, didn’t mention Forbes at all, other than a line at the bottom of every few paragraphs that mentioned ‘sources,’ and a very small icon that looked to be the ‘F’ from the Forbes logo – if you squinted.”

Has Perplexity AI plagiarized content?

The San Francisco-based AI search startup, Perplexity, once celebrated by top tech investors like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has recently faced scrutiny over plagiarism accusations.

Aravind Srinivas, CEO of Perplexity, denied allegations that his company was “ignoring the Robot Exclusions Protocol and then lying about it.” Srinivas acknowledged to Fast Company that Perplexity does use third-party web crawlers in addition to its own, and confirmed that the bot identified by WIRED was among them.

However, he added, “It was accurately pointed out by Forbes that they preferred a more prominent highlighting of the source.” Srinivas also mentioned that sources are now more prominently spotlighted.

ReadWrite has reached out to Amazon and Perplexity for comment.

Featured image: Canva / Perplexity AI

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Suswati Basu