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Updated Dec 10, 2023, 10:26pm EST
mediabusiness

A financial news site uses AI to copy competitors — wholesale

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The Scoop

One of the most highly-trafficked financial news websites in the world is creating AI-generated stories that bear an uncanny resemblance to stories published just hours earlier by other competitors.

Investing.com, a Tel Aviv-based site owned by Joffre Capital, is a financial news and information hub that provides a mix of markets data and investing tips and trends. But increasingly, the site has been relying on AI to create its stories, which often appear to be thinly-veiled copies of human-written stories written elsewhere.

  • In early November, the blog CryptoNewsLand wrote a short item noting that the token XRP had “witnessed a resurgence in both its price and investor activity” in recent days. Just a few hours later, Investing published a similar article citing nine of the same statistics as those in the CryptoNewsLand story, as well as the same dataset from Santiment. Both articles were four paragraphs.
  • On the same day, longrunning financial news site The Motley Fool published a story comparing Microsoft’s stock performance to Google’s. In its piece, Motley Fool noted that Microsoft seemed poised for growth in the AI and gaming parts of its business, while Google was bringing in more revenue than Microsoft overall through Google Search and YouTube alone. Just an hour later, Investing published an article comparing the same two stocks, making the exact same points about the strengths and weaknesses of both businesses.
  • In October, the Barcelona-based currency and crypto news site FXStreet published a story about how Grayscale Investments had secured a victory in its legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The piece cited tweets by YouTuber Crypto Rover, the X account @nsquaredcrypto, and analysts at Berenberg discussing the likely legal outcome. Investing published its own piece on the situation several hours later citing the exact same sources.

In each instance, Investing disclosed that its stories were written with the help of AI, with oversight from an editor. But unlike news aggregators, which link or credit other news sources, Investing did not note or credit anyone except its own AI.

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Know More

Investing’s AI articles — and their strong similarities to other recent pieces written by humans — have not gone unnoticed by competitors.

Pere Monguió, the head of content at FXStreet, told Semafor in an email that he and his team noticed several months ago that Investing was publishing stories similar to their site’s articles. FXStreet’s 60-person team monitors and quickly analyzes developments in global currencies. By pumping out AI articles, Investing was eroding FXStreet’s edge, Monguió said.

“Using AI to rewrite exclusive content from competitors is a threat to journalism and original content creation,” he said.

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He added: “This is one of the multiple examples we have found with simple comparisons of their content to several of our articles and many other media outlets in the industry. For us, this is particularly damaging as FXStreet is one of Investing.com’s main competitors.”

Other competitors were displeased but less concerned, saying the quality of Investing pieces was still worse than the stories Investing’s AI generated.

“This isn’t truly a new thing,” Lawrence Greenberg, senior vice president and chief legal officer at The Motley Fool, said in an email. “We have seen, and acted against, people plagiarizing our content from time to time, and if you’re right about what’s going on, AI has achieved a level of human intelligence that copies good content and makes it mediocre.”

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Max’s view

Investing did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though an administrator at the site said in an email that the organization had received my note asking how the publication was using AI in its editorial process.

It seems likely that Investing is simply plugging these stories into AI and regurgitating them in slightly different language. If that is the case, the strategy raises obvious questions about whether Investing has violated copyright law and if an uncredited rewrite of a story equates to plagiarism — and how legal and ethical guidelines will adapt to AI tools.

But regardless of the site’s exact editorial strategy, Investing’s stories show how AI can already be a powerful tool for undercutting competitors who pay humans to write articles. Sites like FXStreet and The Motley Fool have built reputations and businesses around quick analysis and write-ups of financial news for close followers of markets. Investing has shown how easily an AI-powered company can shamelessly rip off stories without overtly plagiarizing the existing text. In some instances, the AI-written stories were more concise than the originals.

Investing is largely open about its ambitions. The company’s leadership has boasted about its ambitions to incorporate AI more broadly into its journalism and online investing products.

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Notable

  • Investing’s strategy seems to be just one iteration of a growing trend. Futurism, a small tech-focused digital media site, has chronicled the ways in which digital media publishers are attempting to implement AI in unscrupulous ways. In November, the site reported that Sports Illustrated published stories by authors with AI-generated photos and biographies (though the magazine’s publisher partially disputed the story).
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