The big-time sports magazine Sports Illustrated allegedly used AI “authors” to generate multiple online articles. Maggie Harrison of Futurism wrote recently that when she and her team reached out to the magazine for comment, they removed all the AI-generated stuff from the site. However, they couldn’t do so before several screenshots were taken that confirmed the suspicion. A massive and influential publication was making up a portion of its own writers. Harrison reports,
The AI content marks a staggering fall from grace for Sports Illustrated, which in past decades won numerous National Magazine Awards for its sports journalism and published work by literary giants ranging from William Faulkner to John Updike.
But now that it’s under the management of The Arena Group, parts of the magazine seem to have devolved into a Potemkin Village in which phony writers are cooked up out of thin air, outfitted with equally bogus biographies and expertise to win readers’ trust, and used to pump out AI-generated buying guides that are monetized by affiliate links to products that provide a financial kickback when readers click them.-Maggie Harrison, Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers (futurism.com)
Sports Illustrated isn’t the first to get caught red-handed. Earlier in 2023, CNET, a prominent tech journal, was pumping out AI-generated articles, in which some of the content was simply badly written, and moreover, patently false. But it’s almost more disappointing that a magazine of this kind of stature, which as Harrison noted, has published some of the last century’s most brilliant writers, has opted for non-human “authorship.”
Based on Harrison’s reporting, much of this appears to be financially motivated. Hiring real writers takes money, right? Why not “hire” some AI avatars that guide the reader to a product page? In the long run, though, such tactics may paradoxically alienate readers. Maybe some people like to read articles written by Dave the algorithm who lives and writes from Fiji, but I am not among them. Human authors for a human audience, please.