Michael Schumacher’s family to sue German magazine over ‘stupid’ AI interview

The weekly publication Die Aktuelle ran an ‘interview’ with Schumacher which was generated by artificial intelligence

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Thursday 20 April 2023 11:14 BST
Michael Schumacher’s Wife Gives Update On His Condition

Michael Schumacher’s family are planning legal action against a German weekly magazine over an ‘interview’ with the seven times Formula One champion that was generated by artificial intelligence.

A spokesperson for the Schumacher family, when asked for a comment, pointed to published reports of legal action.

The seven-time Formula 1 world champion has not been seen publicly since suffering a near-fatal brain injury while skiing in December 2013 in Meribel, France.

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 “the first interview” the accompanying tag.

The magazine added: “No meagre, nebulous half-sentences from friends. But answers from him! By Michael Schumacher, 54!”

The strapline added: “it sounded deceptively real”.

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.”

Fans online were quick to deride the article and the magazine, with one describing it as “disgraceful” and another adding: “Well, this is awful.”

The front cover of the April 15 edition of German magazine Die Aktuelle, with a photo of Michael Schumacher with the headline ‘exclusive interview’

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.

Schumacher has not been seen publicly since December 2013, with his wife Corinna insisting on protecting his privacy

“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.”

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.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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