Sports magazine under fire for publishing AI-written articles crediting non-existent authors

The Sports Illustrated magazine is under fire for carrying articles written using artificial intelligence, crediting authors who do not seem to exist.

The popular magazine said it removed several articles from its website after a report by Futurism accused it of repeatedly publishing articles with fake author names whose profile images were seemingly generated by AI.

One such now-deleted article was credited to the name “Drew Ortiz”, who does not seem to exist outside the magazine.

The author bio found under the article is allegedly created using AI, the report said.

“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,” the author’s profile read.

The accompanying photo is also found for sale on a website selling AI-generated headshots where he is described as a “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes”.

On questioning the magazine, Futurism said all of the authors with AI-generated portraits disappeared from the magazine’s website without any explanations offered.

Sports Illustrated responded to the allegations saying that the articles under question were created by a third-party company – AdVon Commerce – which it said assured the magazine they were written by humans who use a pen name.

“We are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership,” Sports Illustrated said, according to The Associated Press, adding that AdVon “assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans”.

Some writers and editors at the magazine took to social media to share their thoughts on the matter.

“Along with basic principles of honesty, trust, journalistic ethics, etc. – I take seriously the weight of a Sports Illustrated byline. It meant something to me long before I ever dreamed of working here. This report was horrifying to read,” Emma Baccellieri, a staff writer for the magazine, posted on X.

“The practices described in the story published today do real damage to the credibility of the hardworking humans I have been honored to work with for the past nine years,” Mitch Goldich, a writer and editor at Sports Illustrated, said.

Sports Illustrated’s workers’ union said it was “horrified” by the Futurism story.

“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 Al-generated content under Si’s brand with fabricated bylines and writer profiles. If true, these practices violate everything we believe in about journalism,” it said in a statement.

“We demand answers and transparency from Arena group management about what exactly has been published under the SI name,” the Sports Illustrated Union said.

Sports Illustrated and AdVon did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

This is not the first time a news outlet has drawn criticism for posting AI-generated content.

Last year CNET came under fire for using AI to create news articles about financial service topics which the company attributed to “CNET Money Staff”.

Readers could only learn that AI was used to publish the article if they clicked on the author attribution.

After the incident came to light, CNET’s then-editor Connie Guglielmo said over 70 such machine-generated stories were posted on the website.

“The process may not always be easy or pretty, but we’re going to continue embracing it, and any new technology that we believe makes life better,” Mr Guglielmo said.

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