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Shock Over Sports Illustrated AI Article Scandal Leads Arena Group to Fire CEO

Two weeks following the exposure of the bogus authors, the board announced that Ross Levinsohn would be dismissed to “improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.” After it came to light that Sports Illustrated published pieces written by imposters using AI-generated bios and headshots, the magazine’s CEO was let go by the magazine’s publisher, the Arena Group.

According to Monday’s announcement by the board of directors, Ross Levinsohn was fired from his position as CEO of the Arena Group, and Manoj Bhargava was appointed as temporary CEO. A meeting had been held to discuss ways to “improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company,” according to the board. Bhargava established the organization that manufactures the “5-Hour Energy Drink.”

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The announcement omitted any reference to the November AI controversy that originated in an investigative piece issued by the technology and science news magazine Futurism. Futurism found several fraudulent profiles, including one belonging to a so-called “Sora Tanaka,” who poses as a product critic. According to the profile, Sora has always been an exercise enthusiast and enjoys experimenting with new meals and beverages. With her extensive knowledge of nutrition and exercise, Ms. Tanaka is excited to join the Product Reviews Team and assures you that you will receive nothing less than the finest.

Want to know something interesting? The character Tanaka does not exist.

The Arena Group, which took over Sports Illustrated in 2019, has refuted the claims, stating that the offending pieces were sourced commercial content from AdVon Commerce, an outside advertising company.

“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles,” one Arena Group spokesman said in a statement released at the time. So far as we can tell from our research, this is untrue.

“Several AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were 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 … However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy – actions we strongly condemn – and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.” Arena websites no longer featured content from the company’s former partner, AdVon.

Since its establishment in 1954, Sports Illustrated has become famous for its swimsuit issues, frequently featuring bikini-clad models, athletes, and other celebrities on the covers. However, as pointed out by Futurism, it used to print pieces by renowned authors like John Updike and William Faulkner. Following a wave of layoffs earlier this year, Levinsohn stated that Sports Illustrated would integrate AI into their writing but emphasized that AI would never take the place of human journalists.

2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Wall Calendar
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As stated by Levinsohn in February, “rapidly improving AI technologies can create enterprise value for our brands and partners.” However, he did acknowledge that AI would only partially replace human journalists, reporters, or editors. Andrew Kraft, president of operations and chief operating officer, Rob Barrett, president of media, and Julie Fenster, corporate counsel, were all let go from Arena last week.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff at AI Surge is a dedicated team of experts led by Paul Robins, boasting a combined experience of over 7 years in Computer Science, AI, emerging technologies, and online publishing. Our commitment is to bring you authoritative insights into the forefront of artificial intelligence.


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