The Emily Morgans, as they say, have come home to roost. A bomb dropped in the media landscape, yesterday, when it was revealed that the Arena Group, parent company to once-proud Surfer Magazine, was publishing AI-generated content under false author biographies and photographs.
Futurism was made curious during a perusal of also once-proud Sports Illustrated, also owned by the Arena Group, when it stumbled across the byline for writer Drew Ortiz which read, “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 that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”
Surf fans will certainly recall the aforementioned Emily Morgan, who was introduced right after The Arena Group purchased Surfer. The “trending news writer,” her bio declared, “resides in a small town nestled at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. She’s also a proud owner of a Pyrnesse-mix, her hiking partner, every time she hits a trail. Emily enjoys strong coffee, spicy food, and live music.”
Back to Drew Ortiz, though, Futurism dug in and realized he had no social media presence and no publishing history. His photograph was for sale on a website that sells AI-produced headshots. His described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”
A person involved with content creation at Sports Illustrated revealed that Ortiz was not alone. Multiple frauds wrote daily.
“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,” the whistleblower continued. “It’s just crazy.”
Futurism reached out to The Arena Group for explanation and, like Emily Morgan, all AI-generated authors disappeared off the site “without explanation.”
Later when made aware that the story was being published, a spokesperson with The Arena Group denied the allegations while deftly blaming a third party contractor.
AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans. According to AdVon, their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content. However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy — actions we don’t condone — and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.
But also racist.
Why was a robot with the last name “Ortiz” a “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes?”
More, certainly, as the story develops.