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Sports Illustrated Publisher Fires CEO After Outlet Allegedly Published AI-Generated Stories With Fake Authors

  Digital publisher The Arena Group, which owns and operates   Sports Illustrated   and other major publications, announced this week that i...

 Digital publisher The Arena Group, which owns and operates Sports Illustrated and other major publications, announced this week that it had fired Sports Illustrated CEO Ross Levinsohn effective immediately.

“Today, the board of directors of The Arena Group Holdings, Inc. (NYSE American: AREN) met and took actions to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company,” the company said in a statement. “The board terminated the employment of CEO Ross Levinsohn, and named Manoj Bhargava as interim Chief Executive Officer, both effective today.”

The company declined to go into further detail about what specifically led to Levinsohn’s removal and, when asked if it was related to a recent scandal involving the company allegedly publishing AI-generated content from fake authors, a spokesperson said: “We have nothing further to add to the company’s prior statements regarding A.I.”

The Arena Group noted in its statement that it had also recently fired operations president and COO Andrew Kraft, media president Rob Barrett, and corporate counsel Julie Fenster.

“All of the media brands, including Sports Illustrated, will continue to operate with the management of those verticals, while the company just takes a broad view of operations and how to improve the business overall,” a company spokesperson told CNN.

A report late last month from Futurism laid out examples of authors whose personas existed only on the website of the leading American sports magazine, which also allegedly used artificial intelligence to churn out articles.

“The content is absolutely AI-generated,” an anonymous source told Futurism. “No matter how much they say that it’s not.”


According to the outlet, Sports Illustrated listed a writer named “Drew Ortiz” — a white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes who grew up in a farmhouse and enjoyed the greater outdoors. But the profile photo paired with Ortiz’s biography is a headshot listed for sale on a website that sells AI-generated photos.

“There’s a lot,” another source told Futurism. “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. It’s just crazy.”

TheStreet, another publication owned by The Arena Group, was also found to have allegedly engaged in similar practices, according to the report.

When Futurism asked the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, for comment, the company did not respond immediately.

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