Raising ethical concerns, Quora's Poe AI bypasses news paywall

Poe, the AI ​​chat platform owned by Quora, is providing users with HTML files of paywalled articles with links to the paywalled content. This development was first flagged by Wired, which found that Poe is able to bypass not only its own paywall, but also the paywalls of The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, Forbes, Defector, and 404 Media.

MediaNama did a comparison exercise to see which Indian publications' stories it could reproduce. We found that Po was able to reproduce stories from ETPrime, Mint Premium, Moneycontrol Pro and LiveLaw's paywall articles.

How do paywall bypassing techniques work?

Naturally, Poe isn't the only tool that can bypass paywalls. Other services like 12ft.io are also able to do this by removing a site's JavaScript. JavaScript is a programming language used to create interactive web pages.

According to device intelligence platform Fingerprint, many paywalls rely on JavaScript to count page views and limit the number of non-paying readers. Thus, by removing JavaScript, websites like 12ft can bypass such paywalls. However, Poe goes one step further and for some articles from the publications mentioned above, while 12ft could not bypass the paywall, Poe could.

Ironically, when asked how they circumvent the paywall, they firmly state that they cannot provide users with any information about the subject. Instead, they urge subscribing to publications and say that circumventing the paywall and assisting users in circumventing the paywall “would be against its principles”.

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why it matters:

In the past, several writers and news publications have raised concerns about Microsoft Copilot and OpenAI's ChatGPT for reproducing stories without compensating the original publisher. Some publications argue that Copilot and the Browse with Bing feature make it completely unnecessary for the reader to visit the news publications' website. Other AI bots such as Perplexity have also been called out for stealing news content through summarizing existing news content.

Similar to these other AI models, Poe's paywall bypass capabilities also pose a threat to publications' business models, as it makes it unnecessary for users to subscribe to a news publication.

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