OpenAI has made the decision to temporarily disable the 'Browse with Bing' beta tool from its ChatGPT Plus service following findings that subscribers were using it to bypass paywalls and access content for free. The tool was originally integrated to grant ChatGPT the capacity to glean information from newly published sources, effectively allowing it to respond to time-sensitive queries. However, it seems the developers have underestimated the scope of the tool's capabilities.
As per OpenAI's official help page, if a user specifically requests for a complete text of a URL, artificial intelligence (AI) will fulfill the request. This includes showing content from articles behind paywalls. The AI research lab has stated that it is working on resolving this issue as it aims "to do right by content owners". They have also reassured users that the tool will be reinstated at an undisclosed future date.
What remains a mystery is the mechanism through which the AI managed to bypass paywalls. Some speculation has arisen within the ChatGPT subreddit community, with one user suggesting that since "some paywalls are simply pasted over" articles, the AI might be able to read the code rendering the text and display the content without any obstacles.
The announcement has sparked an uproar among subscribers, who vented their frustrations on OpenAI’s Community forums. Many argued that the 'Browse with Bing' feature was their primary reason for purchasing ChatGPT Plus, with one user highlighting that the tool enabled them to read GitHub repositories and forum posts in foreign languages. Others contended that without 'Browse with Bing', they are not receiving value for their money.
Despite the backlash, OpenAI's decision is understandable in light of their legal battles. The company has faced numerous lawsuits, including one from the California-based Clarkson Law Firm alleging copyright and privacy violation due to data scraping from the internet. Authors Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad have also lodged claims of their works being used without attribution. Radio host Mark Walters is another litigant, accusing OpenAI of defamation over false embezzlement allegations. As such, OpenAI is keen to avoid more legal troubles and is erring on the side of caution.