Sports Illustrated publishes AI articles by fictional writers

Occurred: November 2023

Sports Illustrated published content from non-existent writers with AI-generated headshots, raising questions about the publication's editorial integrity and damaging its reputation.

A Futurism investigation found Sports Illustrated published articles written by fake authors whose headshots and biographies were generated by artificial intelligence. In one instance, an article about volleyball was supposedly written by 'Drew Ortiz'. 

However, it transpired that Ortiz only exists as an AI-generated headshot for sale on Generated Headshots, where he is described as 'neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.' 

According to its/his profile on Sports Illustrated, '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.' 

According to The Arena Group, which acquired Sports Illustrated in 2019, the relevant articles in were produced by advertising company AdVon Commerce and that 'AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy.'

In December 2013, Sports Illustrated fired its CEO to “improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company”. Commentators agreed the firing was at least partially likely due to the publication's misuse of AI.

In January 2024, Sports Illustrated owner Authentic Brands Group informed staff there would be 'mass lay-offs' at the publication.

In May 2024, AdVon was accused by Futurism of using a content management system powered by AI to publish product reviews using bylines of fake writers with fictional biographies and AI-generated profile pictures for multiple other companies.

Incident databank 🔢

Operator: The Arena Group/Sports Illustrated
Developer: AdVon Commerce; Generated Photos
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Publish news articles
Technology: NLP/text analysis
Issue: Employment
Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: November 2023
Last updated: May 2024