A magazine has been labelled ‘disgraceful’ by fans online after using an artificial intelligence programme to produce fake quotes from Michael Schumacher – before depicting the response as an “exclusive interview” on their front cover.
His wife Corinna has insisted on protecting Schumacher’s privacy in the nine years since, with his medical condition shrouded in secrecy as he continues to recover at home in Switzerland.
Yet German outlet Die Aktuelle have sparked a backlash online after plastering Schumacher’s face on their 15 April front cover, with “exclusive interview” the accompanying tag.
The magazine stated that it was “the first interview” Schumacher has given since his accident, adding: “No meagre, nebulous half-sentences from friends. But answers from him! By Michael Schumacher, 54!”
Quotes from the piece, purporting to be from Schumacher, include: “My life has completely changed since [the accident]. That was a horrible time for my wife, my children and the whole family,”
“I was so badly injured that I lay for months in a kind of artificial coma, because otherwise my body couldn’t have dealt with it all. I’ve had a tough time but the hospital team has managed to bring me back to my family.”
Yet at the end of the article, the outlet reveal that they in fact used an AI chatbot, reported to be Character.ai, to generate the answers.
“Did Michael Schumacher really say everything himself” the article concludes.
“The interview was online. On a page that has to do with artificial intelligence, or AI for short.”
German media commentator Boris Rosenkranz insisted the piece was “too stupid to be true” in a comment article.
Die Aktuelle won a court battle in 2015 with Corinna Schumacher, Michael’s wife, after the magazine used a picture with Corinna on the front cover, headlined: “Corinna Schumacher – a new love makes her happy.”
The story was about their daughter, Gina, but the lawsuit on the grounds of the cover being “misleading” was dismissed.
Another Schumacher-related article from the outlet, in 2014, put Michael and Corinna on the front cover with the title ‘Awake’ – yet the piece was actually focused on individuals who have woken up from a coma, as opposed to Schumacher himself.
Speaking to Italian outlet Corriere della Sera last month, former Ferrari boss Jean Todt dismissed the notion that various people know about Schumacher’s health and called for people to respect the family’s privacy.
“Let’s leave them alone,” the 77-year-old Frenchman said.
“We respect the privacy wishes of Corinna and her children, we know that that accident had consequences.
“Anyone who says he knows something, he knows nothing. I always go to see him. He and his family are my family.”
Todt is a close friend of Schumacher’s since their time working together during a successful era at Ferrari, when the German won five of his seven world titles from 2000-2004.
Todt detailed as recently as last July that he still watches F1 races with Schumacher despite the German’s unknown medical state.
“I don’t miss Michael, I see him,” Todt told German broadcaster RTL. “Yes, it’s true, I watch grand prix with Michael. But sure, I guess what I miss is what we used to do together.”
In a Netflix documentary which aired in 2021 titled Schumacher, Corinna detailed how his family have dealt with the situation and continue to “get on with their lives.”
“Michael is here. Different, but he’s here, and that gives us strength, I find,” Corinna said.
“We’re together. We live together at home. We do therapy. We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable. And to simply make him feel our family, our bond. And no matter what, I will do everything I can. We all will.
“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’, as 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 and now we are protecting Michael.”
Corinna was in attendance to collect an award last July on behalf of husband Michael, with daughter Gina and Todt joining her to collect the State Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia - the highest civilian honour available to those born within the region.
Schumacher holds the joint-record for the most Formula 1 world titles with Lewis Hamilton.
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