Sports Illustrated Under Fire for AI-Generated Articles


The giant of sports journalism Sports Illustrated has found itself in hot water following allegations that some of its online articles were created using artificial intelligence (AI) and published under false author names. An explosive report from technology publication Futurism claims that several Sports Illustrated articles were written by AI software and attributed to non-existent authors with AI-fabricated profile pictures.

The genesis of the Sports Illustrated AI scandal

Futurism published on the Sports Illustrated website findings from an in-depth investigation that uncovered AI foul play. The report identified two so-called Sports Illustrated authors – Drew Ortiz and Sora Tanaka – whose profile photos and bios were generated by AI.

Furthermore, the articles published under both authors’ names contained typical AI jargon, including tricky sentences and repetitive language. The findings were based on tips from a few anonymous sources involved in creating Sports Illustrated’s online content.

Futurism’s scathing report accuses Sports Illustrated of using AI to generate articles and pass them off as written by real people. If confirmed, this practice raises questions about the ethics of journalism, misleading the public, and the appropriate use of emerging technologies such as AI in publishing.

The Arena Group denies allegations

Sports Illustrated’s parent company – The Arena Group – flatly denied the allegations outlined in the Futurism article. While The Arena Group admitted that some authors used pseudonyms, it claimed that all content was written by humans.

According to their statement:

The articles were obtained from a third-party content provider who assured us that all articles were written by humans. We terminated our relationship with that vendor after learning of the allegations and, after further review, removed all affected content from our site because the content did not meet our editorial standards.

Additionally, The Arena Group acknowledged that the articles violated company policy due to a lack of transparency around the author’s identity and contributor details. Moving forward, new guidelines have been implemented that require the names of contributors and clarity on whether the content comes from the editors or from public contributors.

AI-generated red flags

While The Arena Group disputes the claims, the Futurism report highlights several smoking guns that suggest AI was used to fabricate content.

First, profile images for both Drew Ortiz and Sora Tanaka used AI image generation platforms. Second, their bios contain typical AI blunders, such as Ortiz supposedly playing for a non-existent high school football team.

Finally, the articles themselves showed linguistic patterns symptomatic of AI – including repetitive phrasing, awkward terminology, and the occasional garbled sentence. Shortly after receiving Futurism’s research, these AI red flags mysteriously disappeared from Sports Illustrated.

Violation of ethical journalism

Regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true, this saga underlines emerging ethical issues surrounding AI and journalism. Facilitating audience deception undermines public trust in media brands that trade credibility for clicks.

While AI holds tremendous promise, transparency and human oversight remain essential when leveraging automated technologies. As a Sports Illustrated reporter put it:

“When Sports Illustrated publishes AI-generated content under fake human names, it violates the trust we’ve built with readers over decades. Media companies must always put truth and transparency first.”

This wise perspective should be a guide to all journalistic institutions grappling with the double-edged potential of AI.

As our AI capabilities advance, we must foster societal values ​​of honesty and integrity. Sports Illustrated now faces a reckoning over living up to its revered legacy. Only time will tell whether this outcry creates a positive shift toward ethically conscious adoption of AI.

The key takeaways

The Sports Illustrated controversy offers cautionary lessons for journalism in the age of increasing automation by artificial intelligence:

  • Unethical practices that mislead the public can quickly undermine public trust
  • Transparency around automated technologies remains paramount
  • Credibility depends on human oversight and control of AI
  • Emerging technologies require updated ethics policies that uphold integrity

By serving as a case study in the irresponsible adoption of AI, this incident can actually better prepare the media to meet future challenges. That is, if Sports Illustrated and its peers learn from this misstep.

Through conscious self-correction and ethical leadership, even mistakes can pave the way to progress.

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