Magazine criticised for ‘exclusive Michael Schumacher interview’ generated by AI

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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.

Report: Michael Schumacher’s family discuss his life after skiing crash in film
“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.”

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Elsewhere the website 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.

Magazine criticised for 'exclusive Michael Schumacher interview' generated by AI

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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Magazine criticised for ‘exclusive Michael Schumacher interview’ generated by AI”

  1. It’s quite hard to say what one really thinks about those journalists and also stay within the guidelines of this site. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come, and those people need a long hard look in the mirror.

    1. those people need a long hard look in the mirror

      To make sure their aim is good when they do the honourable thing?
      I was never a Schumacher fan, but this strikes me as so low it gives a view of the underside of the Tory party.

      1. SteveP: …”so low it gives a view of the underside of the Tory party”

        I read that and cheered! Great comment!

    2. Comment of the day.

  2. Whatever one thinks of Mrs. Schumacher’s choices after Michael’s accident, this is just silly and shouldn’t happen.

    The editors know this, but they also know that, sadly, it does tend to result in a spike in sales.

  3. Some of the worst PR management I have ever seen. Why not just say he is in a coma and never coming back? We all get it, but it would prevent garbage like this from being published.

  4. This goes far beyond the typical “click bait” (whatever the paper edition equivalent would be) culture. Terrible “journalism” in so, so many ways; I hope their company won’t survive much longer. It’s fraudulent behavior and this should be illegal. And no, not because it’s Schumacher (do I have to say that…), this is as idiotic as it is bad; trying to cheat their readers into buying that crap. Strangely, they don’t seem to care about selling anything beyond this edition; as I can’t imagine this being good for them long term.

  5. Humanity is well and truly screwed. Bring on the T-1000.

  6. Only 12 days until racing starts again.

  7. I smell a lawsuit… It’s one thing to experiment with this kind of content, something else entirely to sell it as words coming from the man himself. Precedent needs to be set that this is not okay.

    1. Your instincts are impeccable. The lawsuit is incoming.

  8. Wow, that is remarkably messed up! What a time we live in…between this sort of stuff and deep fakes, I fear we’re in for a tsunami of misinformation.

  9. Not gonna read it, don’t care and I think it’s very low.
    On the other hand, it also reminds me of how sad I feel for the real Schumy fans. I understand people have their reasons to keep things private, but some news would be good for the fans I think. This no news, or just the vage updates from Jean Todt who seems to get a kick out of it, is only feeding speculation and devastated fans can’t get somekind of closure.

    1. updates from Jean Todt who seems to get a kick out of it

      My impression is he’s given a few comments about it when asked, but those comments get regurgitated and repeated to a phenomenal extent on certain websites. I have on one occasion seen the same site report the same comments about Schumacher as news on two separate occasions, months apart, having failed to realise they’d already reported them once. I wouldn’t blame Todt for the answers he’s given, but the way some of his comments have been subsequently treated by some in the media leaves a lot to be desired.

      1. Yes probably, the impression I get from it is to hard. But that is what you get in the end. If you give no info, these things get a new life on the web.
        Maybe the same thing will happen with this AI interview. it’s fake, but it’s the only info, which will get repeated over and over again, so lots people will take it as a tru, or think there must be some truth in it, that is how the brain works.

  10. Unless there are swift and severe legal and financial penalties, and regulations regarding the use of AI in journalism, this will spread like the aggressive cancer it is. Given the hostility to journalism the forces behind ChatGPT have displayed, I think it’s fair to surmise that they would view the erosion of journalism as a feature not a bug.

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