Earlier this month, business publication Benzinga published what they billed as an interview with rapper and cannabis entrepreneur Gilbert Anthony "Berner" Milam, Jr.

In the apparent interview, Benzinga contributor David Daxsen appeared to press Milam Jr. on growing concerns over lawsuits that were filed against his cannabis company Cookies. In April, the entrepreneur was accused of using strongarming and bullying tactics to run the brand, generating millions of dollars in kickbacks.

"The lawsuits against Cookies allege that coercive tactics were employed to compel stakeholders into providing benefits and kickbacks to our company's executives," Milam Jr. allegedly told Benzinga. "This has, understandably, cast a cloud over not only our company but the entire industry."

But it turned out there was a huge problem with the piece: the interview apparently never actually took place and was entirely made up. In fact, according to a retraction posted by Benzinga just over a week after the original interview was published, "the information included was fabricated by external sources."

And, in a futuristic twist, the real Milam Jr. is accusing the fake interview of being AI-generated.

"That’s not a real interview," the real Milam Jr. wrote in a November 13 tweet, the day after the original interview was posted.

"Not one word is mine," he wrote in a followup. "That’s why I’ve always done my own quotes or interviews in my own voice. That ain't me at all!"

Journalist Grant Smith Ellis dug a little deeper following Milam Jr.'s surprising comments.

"Some of these answers are laughable and clearly not real," he tweeted. "How did this get past an editor?"

Smith Ellis ran the interview through an AI content detector and found several red flags indicating it was largely, if not entirely, "written by AI."

The Benzinga contributor, Daxsen, may have a conflict of interest as well. As Smith Ellis pointed out, Daxsen runs a company that "invests in the cannabis industry."

Three days following the publication of the fateful interview, Benzinga's head of content Javier Hasse called Daxsen an "external unpaid contributor" and said that the piece "does not meet Benzinga's editorial standards."

Yet the relationship between Daxsen and the business publication is clearly more nuanced than that.

In a May profile, Hasse detailed Daxsen's "entrepreneurial endeavors and philanthropic ventures" and quoted him at length about his "financial success" and "positive change."

A simple search for Daxsen's name on Benzina comes up with nine hits, published over the last 14 months. He also still has an active profile on the website, listing his various contributions. His most recent published piece is from August.

It raises an inevitable question: how confident is Benzinga that Daxsen's other work for the site was real and not fictionalized, as the Milam Jr. interview appears to have been?

It wouldn't be the first time we've come across an entire "interview" that was in reality generated by AI. In April, German tabloid rag Die Aktuelle admitted to publishing an AI-generated interview with Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher, who hasn't made a public appearance in almost a decade since suffering a near-fatal brain injury in 2013 (the magazine's editor was subsequently fired.)

"We apologize to Berner, Cookies, and Benzinga readers for the error," reads an official statement posted to Benzinga's cannabis-related X account, which has just over 9,000 followers (Benzinga's official account has more than 266,000).

The publication said in its retraction that it had "revoked access for the contributor who authored the piece."

"It’s unfortunate how unreliable media has become in 2023, but even more disappointing how far competition will go to get you out the way," Milam Jr. wrote on Instagram. "It’s time to create a better process for fact checking but also start holding the people behind these attacks on businesses and business owners RESPONSIBLE."

Futurism has reached out to Benzinga, Daxsen, and Milam Jr. for comment.

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