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Sports Illustrated accused of using AI in stories, creating fake authors

By NICK GARCIA Published Nov 29, 2023 11:12 am

Sports Illustrated was accused of publishing stories generated by artificial intelligence (AI), prompting the renowned sports magazine to delete articles on its website.

Tech news website Futurism, in its report, alleged that Sports Illustrated used AI in its stories and created fake authors.

It noted how Sports Illustrated has a supposed writer named Drew Ortiz, whose profile photo was apparently for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots as a “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes."

Futurism said it also spoke with people involved with creating content for Sports Illustrated.

When Futurism reached out to the magazine’s publisher, Arena Group, before publishing its story, it said the AI-generated authors "disappeared from Sports Illustrated's site without explanation.” It also didn’t get any responses.

After publishing its story, a spokesperson from Arena Group denied the report in a statement via Sports Illustrated’s X account, saying it is “not accurate.”

It said the articles were “product reviews” licensed from an external company, AdVon Commerce.

“We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised,” the statement read, adding that AdVon gave an assurance that “all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans.”

Arena Group said it also “learned” that AdVon “had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy–actions we strongly condemn.”

It added that it’s removing content while an internal investigation is ongoing and has since ended the partnership with AdVon.

Futurism, however, noted that Arena Group’s statement did not address its story’s core allegation: that Sports Illustrated published content from nonexistent writers with AI-generated headshots.

Members of the Sports Illustrated Union, in a statement, said they’re “horrified” by Futurism’s report and demanded Arena Group “answers and transparency” and to “commit to adhering to basic journalistic standards.”

“We want to be very clear,” the union said. “What is described in this Futurism story does not represent the hardworking journalists who make up the SI Union.”

“For nearly 70 years, SI staff members have held themselves to the highest possible ethical standards. As members of the SI Union, we are proud to be part of that legacy and work every day to protect it,” it added.

“We expect management to do the same,” the union said of Arena Group.