Sports Illustrated accused of publishing content created with artificial intelligence

A report from Futurism revealed that the magazine used fake authors to write articles and product descriptions. The magazine's parent company holds an external company responsible.

More and more companies are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) as another work tool, despite the criticism that this technology receives due to the dangers derived from its use. The last to do so seems to have been Sports Illustrated magazine, which allegedly used AI to generate and publish content about certain products.

According to a report by Futurism, the sports magazine used AI to create several fake authors. Close sources commented that some Sports Illustrated's content "is absolutely AI-generated, no matter how much they say that it's not."

'Drew Ortiz the Hiker' and 'Sora Tanaka the Fitness Guru'

One of those fictitious profiles is that of "Drew Ortiz," whose profile has already been deleted. It had a photograph of a man that looked real, until Futurism revealed that it belonged to a web portal that sells portraits created with AI. Furthermore, he had an atypical description within the professional environment:

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. Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn't out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents' farm.

Another of the fake authors that appeared on the Sports Illustrated website was "Sora Tanaka," whose profile photo is also sold on the same site as that of Drew Ortiz. It was also deleted. In his case, the biographical description was as follows:

Sora has always been a fitness guru, and loves to try different foods and drinks. Ms. Tanaka is thrilled to bring her fitness and nutritional expertise to the Product Reviews Team, and promises to bring you nothing but the best of the best.

The publisher blames an external company

The Arena Group, publisher of Sports Illustrated, issued a statement claiming that it was not the magazine's responsibility for AI-generated content to appear, but rather that of an external company called AdVon Commerce. The statement was posted by Sports Illustrated on X (formerly Twitter):

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. 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.

The publisher added that "AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans," and that "their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content." The point is that, as The Arena Group points out in its statement, the external company's authors used "a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy." The collaboration between both companies concluded.

'These practices violate everything we believe in about journalism'

On the other hand, the Sports Illustrated Union, a union that represents the magazine's workers, said The Arena Group's "practices violate everything we believe in about journalism" and asked for transparency from the board:

We, the workers of the SI Union, are horrified by a story on the site Futurism, reporting that Sports Illustrated's parent company, The Arena Group, has published AI-generated content under the SI brand with fabricated captions and writer profiles. If true, these practices violate everything we believe about journalism. We deplore being associated with something so disrespectful to our readers. We demand answers and transparency from [parent group] Arena Group management about what exactly has been published under the SI name. We demand the company adhere to basic journalistic standards, including not publishing computer-written stories by fake people.