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Sports Illustrated Reportedly Used AI to Create Stories

  • According to a report, SI used artificial intelligence to create both articles and author profiles for stories.
  • Parent The Arena Group has run AI-generated articles in its other properties.
Covers of Sports Illustrated with photographs by Walter Iooss Jr. are on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art Thursday, March 3, 2022.
DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sports Illustrated may have used artificial intelligence to create articles — and even entire “authors” on its website.

According to a new report from Futurism, SI routinely uses AI to generate articles, attributes the writing of those articles to writers who don’t exist, and uses AI-generated pictures to give the fake authors a visual presence.

The prime example — “Drew Ortiz” — had a generic biography on his author page and his profile picture can be traced back to a website that sells AI-generated portraits. 

SI regularly cycles the AI-created authors out of its system and replaces them with new ones, per Futurism, including when the tech publication reached out to SI parent The Arena Group to respond to the accusations. 

In a statement to Front Office Office Sports, a TAG spokesperson said that the articles in question were licensed content of product reviews from a third party called AdVon Commerce.

“AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” they said. “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.”

The Sports Illustrated Union, which represents the outlet’s writers, released a statement saying it was “horrified” by the report and demanding “answers and transparency” from its parent.

“If true, these practices violate everything we believe in about journalism,” the union said. “We deplore being associated with something so disrespectful to our readers.”

The Arena Group has ventured into AI-generated content for several of its other properties: TheStreet, Men’s Journal, and Dealbreaker have previously published AI-generated articles, per the Wall Street Journal.

In February, The Arena Group laid off 17 Sports Illustrated employees as part of restructuring.

FOS senior writer Michael McCarthy contributed reporting for this story.

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