A magazine has been criticised for publishing an article presented on its cover as a world exclusive interview with Michael Schumacher, which it later indicated was generated using artificial intelligence.
The seven-times world champion has not been seen since he suffered a brain injury when he fell while skiing in December 2013.
However German magazine ‘Die Aktuelle’ this week ran what it described as an “interview” with the 54-year-old. Its two-page spread titled “Mein Leben hat sich total verändert” (“My life has totally changed”) is promoted on its front page alongside a picture of Schumacher as “Das erste Interview” (“The first interview”) and “Welt-Sensation!” (“world sensation”).
However in smaller type the magazine also indicates how the feature was produced: “Es klingt täuschend echt” (“it sounds deceptively real”).
The piece is introduced as if it was a genuine interview: “Talk to him once. Ask him how he’s really doing. And finally got answers almost 10 years after his tragic skiing accident,” it begins.
“No meagre, nebulous half-sentences from friends. But answers from him! By Michael Schumacher, 54! Here it is — the incredible interview! With redeeming answers to the most burning questions that the whole world has been asking for so long.”
The responses given to the questions – none of which are believed to have genuinely been spoken by Schumacher – refer to his injuries and the careers of his children Mick and Gina.
The unbylined article concludes by hinting at the source of its material: “Did Michael Schumacher really say everything himself? The interview was online. On a page that has to do with artificial intelligence, or AI for short.”
Elsewhere the website c.ai is referenced, which is the home of an artificial intelligence which mimics the responses of famous people. “There are actually internet sites where you can chat with celebrities,” the article notes.
German media expert Boris Rosenkranz criticised the publication for the article and its presentation. “This story here is a particularly remarkable cheek, even for ‘Die Aktuelle’,” he wrote.
“You can’t hide the calculation to give the readership the feeling that Michael Schumacher might be talking about his physical condition,” he added.
Schumacher’s family has gone to great lengths to keep his condition private since his accident. In a 2021 documentary about the world champion his wife Corinna said: “We’re trying to carry on as a family the way Michael liked it and still does. And we are getting on with our lives.
“‘Private is private’ he always said. It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible, Michael always protected us, now we are protecting Michael.”
The lengths some in the media have gone to report on Schumacher’s condition since his accident has prompted criticism before. Shortly after Schumacher’s 2013 accident, one journalist was accused of impersonating a priest to gain access to him.
In 2016 a photograph of Schumacher taken at his home in Geneva was offered for sale, prompting an investigation by the authorities.
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