A new report from Futurism says that Sports Illustrated published articles written by artificial intelligence and posted using AI-generated bylines and photos — then deleted the articles after the outlet asked about it.
According to the report, several authors on Sports Illustrated’s site did not appear to exist outside the publication. On top of that, several author photos were from a website that sold AI-generated photos.
An anonymous source who works in the creation of Sports Illustrated’s content told Futurism that the photos and articles on the stories in question were AI-generated.
“The content is absolutely AI-generated,” the source told Futurism, “no matter how much they say that it’s not.”
After Futurism reached out to Sports Illustrated, the authors disappeared from the site.
In a statement following the report, Sports Illustrated said that the articles in question were product reviews licensed from a third-party company, AdVon Commerce, and that AdVon “assured” Sports Illustrated that the articles are written by humans. Regardless, Sports Illustrated is removing the content and has ended its partnership with AdVon.
“AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” the statement reads. “According to AdVon, their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content. 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.”
And even though Sports Illustrated maintains that the articles are written by humans, Futurism cited one article about different volleyballs to buy, saying it read “like it was written by an alien.” “Volleyball can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with,” the article reads.
The Sports Illustrated Union responded to Futurism’s report, saying they are “horrified” over it.
“If true, these practices violate everything we believe about journalism,” the union’s statement reads. “We deplore being associated with something so disrespectful to our readers.
“We demand answers and transparency from [parent group] Arena Group management about what exactly has been published under the SI name. We demand the company adhere to basic journalistic standards, including not publishing computer-written stories by fake people.”
Since AI has gained popularity in the last year, news publications have used it to experiment with articles — including the newspaper chain Gannett, which used AI to write high school sports stories. After the stories went viral on social media for including a lot of mistakes and being poorly written, Gannett paused its experiment with AI.