Recently media world was shocked when it was revealed that Sports Illustrated, a magazine with a storied history in sports journalism, was using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate articles under fake author names and AI-generated profile photos. This revelation has raised questions about the publication’s credibility and the ethics of possibly using AI to create content.
The issue came to light when digital media outlet Futurism published a report exposing the use of AI-generated authors in sports publications. One of the authors highlighted in the report was Drew Ortiz, whose author biography appeared perfectly normal on the magazine’s website. Problem was there was no trace of a sports journalist named Drew Ortiz–there was no publishing history, and Futurism discovered his profile photo was for sale on a website that offers AI-generated headshots.
“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”
Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author, apparently, a source told Futurism.
“There’s a lot,” the insider said of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”
Some of the articles were allegedly generated using AI, although the magazine claims otherwise.
When Futurism reached out to Sports Illustrated’s publisher, the Arena Group, with questions about these practices, all the AI-generated authors and their articles were deleted from the website without explanation.
The Arena Group went on to issue a statement blaming a third-party contractor, AdVon Commerce, for the questionable content. According to the statement, the articles were product reviews and were licensed content from AdVon Commerce. The statement, however, did not address the issue of AI-generated authorship and profile photos.
“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate. The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce.”
The statement continued, “A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised. AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans….However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy — actions we don’t condone — and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.”
But Sports Illustrated isn’t alone in being caught using AI writers.
In October, Gannett-owned Reviewed faced reports it had used AI to produce stories. But while the website contained several stories written by authors who couldn’t be found online, Gannett denied the articles had been written with the use of AI, CNN reported.
A screenshot of one of the Sports Illustrated writer profiles revealed to have been created with AI.