Sports Illustrated generates fake journalists

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The Future. Futurism caught Arena Group-owned outlets like Sports Illustrated and TheStreet red-handed: inventing fake writers with AI and generating articles made to look like they were from real humans. That flies in the face of journalistic ethics, and the real writers at these outlets are now up in arms. The practice may show how, in an internet era driven by SEO and affiliate links, cash-strapped publishers view AI as a potential get-rich-quick scheme… a practice that could fill the web with a lot of junk that’ll only make AI worse.

Deepfake playbook
Futurism found that Sports Illustrated writers Drew Ortiz, Sora Tanaka, and many others didn’t exist, despite having headshots and biographies.

  • Instead, they were AI-generations made to pass as real writers — sources involved with their creation showed how the headshots were up for sale on an AI marketplace.
  • And the articles they wrote, mostly product reviews, were also AI-generated (without any disclosure that they were). And, yes, the writing was terrible.
  • Periodically, certain sketchy “writer” profiles would be deleted… and the article would be re-attributed to another writer (who also happened to be AI-generated).
  • But it wasn’t just Sports IllustratedFuturism found that a similar thing was happening at TheStreet, which, like SI, is owned by publisher The Arena Group.

When Futurism pressed The Arena Group about the allegations, the publisher scrubbed the sites of any trace of the AI writers and then blamed the issue on third-party contractor AdVon. Naturally, the actual human writers at Sports Illustrated are livid and demanding answers.

But this isn’t the first time that publishers have been caught generating “journalists” out of thin air. Gannett-owned papers were called out for hilariously inaccurate sports roundups, BuzzFeed was caught generating travel guides that sounded extremely similar, and Gizmodo’s AI totally messed up reporting on Star Wars… as if you can get away with trying to pull one over diehard fans.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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