Sports Illustrated CEO fired after allegations of AI-generated stories from fake authors

Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn was fired by the publication’s parent company just two weeks after allegations circulated that the sports website was publishing articles generated by artificial intelligence from authors who didn’t appear to exist.

Levinsohn was fired by parent company the Arena Group; he reportedly made the move to “improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company,” the group said, according to The Hill.

Sports Illustrated was accused of publishing articles by “fake, AI-generated writers” whose profile images were found for sale on a website that sells AI-generated profiles and photos.

An article published by outlet Futurism pointed to two allegedly fake writers. The first was a man purported to be Drew Ortiz, whose profile photo was allegedly found by the outlet for sale on an AI face generator website.

This was also true for Sora Tanaka, whose Sports Illustrated profile allegedly said she “has always been a fitness guru, and loves to try different foods and drinks.”

Tanaka’s photo was also reportedly found for sale on the same website.

The Arena Group published a statement alleging that a third-party contractor was to blame for any discrepancies.

“An article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate,” the statement began. “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.”

The company then claimed that although it takes steps to “continually monitor” its partners, the company was “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 also alleged that the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated’s website without explanation. The outlet claimed that other websites operated by the Arena Group, such as the Street, routinely rotate in new AI-generated authors.

Taking Levinsohn’s place is Manoj Bhargava, an Indian-American businessman and founder of 5-Hour Energy. Bhargava reportedly has majority ownership of the Arena Group, as well as a vast portfolio of TV stations and media outlets.

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