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Sports Illustrated Goes There

We don't often have cause to make reference to Sports Illustrated, since they are sports and we are politics. However, we've also been on the AI beat, and SI appears to have become the first publication to enter a brave new world on that front.

It's not a secret that many publications have already commenced using AI-generated content for certain purposes. And the sports media are something of an obvious place for that, since an awful lot of sports content is pretty rote (e.g., game wraps). That said, when an article is credited to some impersonal byline (e.g., "Sports Illustrated Staff" or "Sports Illustrated Digital Services"), it does cheapen the piece a little bit, robbing it of the human touch.

And so, SI decided to solve that problem by creating AI-generated identities to go with their AI-generated articles. For example, meet "Drew Ortiz":

A fake looking guy with a blank look on his face

According to "Drew's" bio:

Drew likes to say that he grew up in the wild, which is partially true. He grew up in a farmhouse, surrounded by woods, fields, and a creek. Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature. Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend goes by where Drew isn't out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents' farm.

SI might have gotten away with it, even if "Drew's" articles are badly written and his bio is extremely clunky. However, the magazine used a mugshot from a site where AI-generated headshots are for sale. Further, when it comes to keeping things on the down-low, it did not help that SI kept "firing" its AI-generated "writers," and that it would habitually change the bylines on AI-generated content from a fired "writer" to an on-staff "writer."

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the magazine's management is very embarrassed, and the staff (which is unionized) is furious. Presumably, SI will be dialing down the chicanery, at least for a while. But how long can it be until other sites, including news and politics sites, start doing the same thing (and presumably with greater skill, and thus less chance of detection)? Fox strikes us as an obvious candidate, though we could see CNN getting some ideas, too, particularly for the garbage advertorial content that appears all over their website's front page. (Z)

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