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Shannon Longworth

Investigative Reporter/Anchor

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These Sports Illustrated writers never existed. Their faces are AI-generated.

Nov 28, 2023

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Shannon Longworth

Investigative Reporter/Anchor

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Sports Illustrated has removed articles after Futurism reported that the outlet published them under fake author names with AI-generated headshots. The revelation has sparked concerns about the growing use of AI in journalism.

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On Monday, Nov. 27, Futurism reported that the headshots of these nonexistent writers were available for purchase on a website that sells AI-generated content. According to the report, a source involved in the creation of the authors confirmed that some of the articles attributed to the authors were also AI-generated.

The Arena Group has been Sports Illustrated’s publisher since 2019. The company addressed the allegations in a statement to media outlets.

The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce.

The Arena Group

“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles,” the statement said. “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 Arena Group statement also mentioned that AdVon Commerce writers use pen or pseudo-names for some articles.

Sports Illustrated is not the first outlet accused of experimenting with AI and not disclosing it. In October, USA Today’s product reviews site, Reviewed, faced accusations of publishing AI-generated articles.

Despite AI detection programs reportedly indicating otherwise, Gannett said that the articles were written by freelancers, according to The New York Times. USA Today currently has ethical guidelines that mandate disclosure when AI is employed in their content creation process.

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[SHANNON LONGWORTH]

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED HAS DELETED SOME OF ITS WRITERS AND THEIR WORK FROM THE SITE.

BECAUSE THESE PEOPLE NEVER ACTUALLY EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE. THEIR LIVES, DETAILED IN BIOS, WERE ALSO FAKE.

FUTURISM IS REPORTING THE HEADSHOTS ARE AI-GENERATED. IN FACT, THEY WERE FOR SALE ON A WEBSITE THAT SELLS SUCH CONTENT. ACCORDING TO FUTURISM, A SOURCE WHO WORKED ON THESE MADE-UP AUTHORS SAID SOME OF THE ARTICLES WERE AI-GENERATED, AS WELL.

JOURNALISTS CALLED IT OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S PUBLISHER SINCE 2019, THE ARENA GROUP, RELEASED A STATEMENT TO OUTLETS…SAYING THAT THE CLAIMS SI PUBLISHED AI-GENERATED ARTICLES WERE INACCURATE PER THE COMPANY’S INITIAL INVESTIGATION. AND THAT THE ARTICLES IN QUESTION WERE FROM A THIRD-PARTY COMPANY, CALLED ADVON COMMERCE. AND THAT ADVON WRITERS USE PEN OR PSEUDO NAMES FOR SOME ARTICLES.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED IS CERTAINLY NOT THE FIRST OUTLET ACCUSED OF EXPERIMENTING WITH AI AND NOT DISCLOSING IT.

IN OCTOBER, USA TODAY PUBLISHER GANNETT MADE HEADLINES WHEN ITS PRODUCT REVIEWS SITE, REVIEWED, REMOVED ARTICLES AMID CLAIMS THAT THEY WERE AI-GENERATED. DESPITE AI DETECTION PROGRAMS INDICATING OTHERWISE, REVIEWED INITIALLY CLAIMED THAT THE ARTICLES WERE WRITTEN BY FREELANCERS, ACCORDING TO THE NEW YORK TIMES.

AS OF TODAY, USA TODAY DOES HAVE ETHICAL GUIDELINES THAT REQUIRE DISCLOSURE WHEN AI IS USED.