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Sports Illustrated readers harmed by artificial intelligence?


The prestigious American magazine Sports Illustrated would have published articles generated by artificial intelligence by creating fake journalists from scratch, the digital media revealed Futurism Monday. “It happened in the United States, but it could happen in Quebec,” worries Éric-Pierre Champagne, president of the Federation of Journalists of Quebec.

There is no reason to believe that magazine journalist Drew Ortiz Sports Illustrated does not exist, explains the article Futurism. Mr. Ortiz’s short online biography describes him as a man who has “spent the majority of his life outdoors,” and who doesn’t go a weekend without going “hiking, camping, or in the backyard.” his parents’ farm.

However, the photo of this journalist is also for sale on an image site generated by artificial intelligence, says the journalist from Futurism, Maggie Harrison. He is then described as a “young white man, neutral, with short brown hair and blue eyes”.

In other words, this journalist was invented from scratch, notes the journalist, citing anonymous sources within Sports Illustrated. And the articles he published look as if they were generated by artificial intelligence.

He wouldn’t be the only one. Several other profiles of journalists and articles generated by artificial intelligence were unearthed by Futurism in the publications of Sports Illustrated. Other publications published by The Arena Group, such as financial media TheStreetwould also have published articles under false journalistic profiles, claims the reporter.

Sports Illustrated, founded in 1954, is one of the largest American sports magazines. He has won prestigious awards several times, including the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

Since 2019, The Arena Group (formerly Maven Inc), has secured a 10-year contract as publisher of the magazine. Questioned by the journalist from Futurism, the company did not respond. Following questions, however, the fake online journalist profiles were removed, says Maggie Harrison.

Note that nothing in these articles warned the reader that they were about to see content generated by artificial intelligence, according to Futurism.


The union of Sports Illustrated reacted on X on Monday following the publication of the article, saying he was “horrified” by the content. “If these practices are true, they violate everything we believe in as journalists,” writes the union, which signs its note “the humans of the union of Sports Illustrated “.

“We demand answers and transparency from the managers of The Arena Group, to know what was published under Sports Illustrated, continues the union. We ask the company to adhere to standard journalistic principles, including not broadcasting stories written by computers and published by fake people. »

On the social network X, a spokesperson for The Arena Group reacted by affirming that the articles described by Futurism came from an external contractor, AdVon Commerce. “AdVon assured us that the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” writes The Arena Group. “According to AdVon, their writers, editors and researchers create and select content following procedures against plagiarism and against artificial intelligence generators. However, AdVon sometimes uses pseudonyms or pen names in some articles to protect the identity of the authors – practices we condemn. »

The Arena Group said it is continuing its internal investigation into AdVon and has in the meantime terminated the partnership.

“The public was fooled”

This article from Futurism exposes “the excesses that can occur with artificial intelligence”, estimates the president of the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec, Éric-Pierre Champagne.

“Worrying” abuses, particularly in a context where false news is already omnipresent, he recalls. “We may find ourselves in a world where it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish real news from fake news,” he warns.

And if the phenomenon appears in the United States, it risks being imported to Quebec, maintains the president.

In the case of Sports Illustratedthe fact that readers were not informed of the type of content they were reading amounted to lies, according to him.

The public has been duped, and this is worrying because, globally, there is a crisis of trust in institutions, including the media.

Éric-Pierre Champagne, president of the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec

Generating and publishing content using artificial intelligence can certainly be profitable, given that there are no journalists to pay. However, getting caught comes with a significant risk: losing your credibility, he believes. “When, as a publication, you no longer have credibility in your market, or with your readers, that’s the beginning of the end. »


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