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Sports Illustrated CEO Ousted Following Report Claiming the Outlet Was Publishing AI-Generated Content

Sports Illustrated CEO Ousted Following Report Claiming the Outlet Was Publishing AI-Generated Content

The CEO of Sports Illustrated has been fired following a report claiming that the magazine has been publishing content generated by artificial intelligence.

Arena Group, the parent company of Sports Illustrated, announced on Monday that its board of directors has moved to fire the magazine's CEO Ross Levinsohn to “improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.”

According to a report from The Hill, Levinsohn became the CEO of Sports Illustrated in 2019 and was previously the publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

Last month, Futurism released a report claiming that Sports Illustrated was publishing these AI articles under fake bylines and using AI-generated headshots for the made-up writers.

The report claimed that after they reached out to Sports Illustrated for comment, the magazine deleted everything.

Drew Ortiz, one of the "writers" had a profile photo on Sports Illustrated that "is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he's described as 'neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes,'" the report pointed out.

That isn't the only fake writer, according to a source who spoke to Futurism and asked to remain anonymous.

"There's a lot," the source told Futurism of the fake authors. "I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist."

"At the bottom [of the page] there would be a photo of a person and some fake description of them like, 'oh, John lives in Houston, Texas. He loves yard games and hanging out with his dog, Sam.' Stuff like that," they continued. "It's just crazy."

A second source reportedly told them that it isn't just authors who are ai generated, but articles as well.

"The content is absolutely AI-generated," the second source said, "no matter how much they say that it's not."

After the article was published, a spokesperson for the Arena Group sent the reporter a statement saying that the articles in question came from the third-party company, AdVon Commerce, who "assured" them that all stories are written and edited by humans.

The statement read as follows:

Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate. The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce. A number of AdVon's e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised. AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans. 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.

Futurism responded to the statement by doubling down and saying, "It sounds like The Arena Group's investigation pretty much just involved asking AdVon whether the content was AI-generated, and taking them at their word when they said it wasn't. Our sources familiar with the creation of the content disagree."

Manoj Bhargava will step in to serve as Sports Illustrated’s interim chief executive officer.

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