Sports Illustrated accused of publishing AI-written articles; Walmart farewell goes viral

Sports Illustrated has been chided by its union for reportedly publishing articles written by AI. Also in the news: a rise in employee volunteering plus a Walmart employee's final sign-out goes viral...

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Dec 1, 2023

Sports Illustrated accused of publishing AI-written articles

A union representing journalists working for Sports Illustrated has reacted angrily after it was revealed that the magazine had potentially published articles generated by artificial intelligence, using fake author names. According to the BBC, Tech publisher, Futurism, reported the issue after finding author headshots on an AI-generated image website. The Sports Illustrated Union said staff were “horrified” and demanded “basic journalistic standards.” According to a statement from Arena Group, which owns the Sports Illustrated magazine and website, the content came from a third-party company, Advon Commerce. Sports Illustrated has since removed the content after the allegations were raised, the statement added. Arena Group is now pursuing an internal investigation and has ended its partnership with Advon Commerce. The Sports Illustrated Union said: “We demand the company commit to adhering to basic journalistic standards, including not publishing computer-written stories by fake people.” Mitch Goldich, an editor at Sports Illustrated who leads the union, said the magazine had done “real damage to the credibility of the hardworking humans I have been honored to work with for the past nine years.”

Walmart employee’s final ‘sign out’ goes viral

A video of a Walmart employee signing out for the final time has gone viral, after an emotional farewell. Gail Lewis, who was employed at the Walmart in Morris, Illinois for 10 years, gave her last sign off, thanking everyone for supporting her. The footage of her farewell has been seen more than 22 million times since it was uploaded to TikTok on November 16. It begins with the brief sign-off, it then goes to an emotional Lewis sitting inside her car, as she explains how much her job and co-workers meant to her. Leaving Walmart, she explained, was a “happy sad” time. While grateful she landed a job elsewhere, the Walmart employee was saddened to leave her fellow associates, who she said became like family over the years. “I’ve been through a lot with them,” she said. “They watched my back. I watched theirs. They helped me out. I helped them out.” Her initial sign-off caught the attention of local residents, who then uploaded it to TikTok. In a Facebook message to NBC Chicago, Lewis thanked everyone for the love and support. “Words really can’t describe my gratitude. It almost feels like a dream,” she said. “I would never guess that this would get this kind of attention.”

America Airlines promises to investigate ‘concerning’ video

American Airlines has promised to investigate what it called a “deeply concerning” video of a passenger’s wheelchair being flung off one of its planes down a baggage chute with a worker at the other end making no attempt to try and stop it getting damaged. The video, taken at Miami Airport, shows a wheelchair slamming into a barrier and the bottom of the chute, which causes it to violently catapult into the air, after having been thrown down the chute. The TikTok video has create huge outrage, and comes after the Department of Transformation revealed that more than 11,000 wheelchairs, scooters and other disability devices were broken by all US airlines during 2022. A spokesperson for American Airlines said: “This visual is deeply concerning and we are gathering more details so that we can address them with our team. We will continue to work hard to improve our handling of assistive devices across our network.” It added: “We recognize how important it is to support the independence of customers with disabilities by ensuring the proper care of mobility devices throughout their journey with us.” Airlines mishandle 1.5% of the mobility devices they transport, according to the Department of Transportation. The DOT reported that 741,582 wheelchairs and scooters were carried and there were 11,389 damages reported.

US-based consultancy execs told to use ‘burner phones’ when visiting China and Hong Kong

According to a report in the UK Financial Times, staff at Deloitte and KPMG have been ordered to use so-called ‘burner phones’ – inexpensive pre-paid mobile phones that are purposely bought and disposed of for temporary and anonymous use. The order is a further sign of mistrust between America and the Far East. While the practice has become common in China, the paper argues that its spread to Hong Kong comes as Beijing has increased its control over the territory. “With much talk [about] national security issues, the general feeling is that it is important to be cautious in Hong Kong as well,” said James Zimmerman, a partner at Perkins Coie in Beijing, quoted in the report. The FT adds that while companies have not always given staff an explicit reason for using separate phones, some executives said their organisations were concerned about the risk of hacks and, in particular, the chance that data about their clients could be accessed. “We have been recommending for several years that clients treat the risk of being in Hong Kong as the same as mainland China,” said a senior executive at a cyber security firm that counts large consultancies among its clients. “I think what you’re seeing is that message sinking in now.”

More employees volunteered this year

According to new data timed to coincide with this week’s Giving Tuesday, more Americans have participated in employee volunteering activities this year. The research – from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals – finds nearly two-thirds (61%) of US employers say they’ve seen an increase in employee volunteer activities this year. In addition, the survey found in-person and virtual volunteering options have become standard in corporate volunteerism programs as remote work continues to be prevalent. A quarter (25%) of companies said they’ve increased their employee engagement budget and only 14% reported decreased participation in employee volunteerism. To help increase participation rates, employers have offering increased opportunities for group volunteering (59%, as well as more focus on in-person volunteering opportunities (48%). Meanwhile, 35% say they have added more options for individual volunteering. However, despite the recent increase in participation, the research still noted that overall participation in corporate volunteering has struggled to get back to the pre-pandemic rate of 34%.

Volkswagen becomes the latest manufacturer to offer US staff pay rises to fend off unionization

Another week, another car manufacturer giving staff a rise in the hope it will protect them against drives towards unionization. This week it was revealed that Volkswagen has become the latest foreign carmaker to raise wages for US workers following significant pay gains won by the United Auto Workers in a six-week strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. VW’s 11% pay rise mirrors what striking workers have bargained, and follows similar moves in recent weeks by Honda, Toyota and Hyundai. United Auto Workers (UAW), which organized this summer/autumn’s disruptive strikes have labeled the rises as the “UAW Bump” – quipping that its initials also stand for ‘You Are Welcome’. The UAW has said it plans to use its wins at the bargaining table to lead organizing drives at the US plants for non-union carmakers. According to the FT, the increases “appears to be an attempt to forestall those efforts, but unlike the gains won by workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis, the increases at the foreign carmakers are not guaranteed by a legally binding contract.” UAW president, Shawn Fain, said: “[we are about] autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed . . . Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda and others are not the enemy; they’re the UAW members of the future.”

CIA warns staff about ‘political’ social media posts

The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly sent out an internal email to staff, warning them not to post political messages on social media. The request follows a senior officer there posting a pro-Palestinian image on Facebook. Although the email to staff says it is simply a “reminder of existing policy,” the warning was issued after the agency’s associate deputy director for analysis posted an image depicting a man waving a Palestinian flag that is sometimes used in commentary critical of Israel. The analyst has also reportedly posted messages condemning anti-Semitism. A CIA spokesperson said in a statement: “CIA officers are committed to analytic objectivity, which is at the core of what we do as an Agency. CIA officers may have personal views, but this does not lessen their – for CIA’s – commitment to unbiased analysis.”