Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher hasn't made a public appearance in almost a decade, since he suffered a near-fatal brain injury while skiing back in December 2013.
But that hasn't stopped German tabloid rag Die Aktuelle from advertising "the first interview" — a "world sensation!" — with Schumacher since his accident, boldly plastering his face on a recent issue of the magazine.
"No meagre, nebulous half-sentences from friends," the tabloid exclaimed. "But answers from him! By Michael Schumacher, 54!"
Except that at the end of the piece, the tabloid shamelessly admitted to using an AI chatbot to generate the entire interview.
In short, it's a particularly brazen and tone-deaf example of how the tech can be abused and undermine the integrity of journalism — while also invading the privacy of an individual who's chosen to live his life out of the limelight following a grave injury.
"Was it really Schumi himself who typed in the information from the hospital bed?" the tabloid wrote. "Or someone from the family, carers or employees?"
"In any case, the answers sound deceptively real!" Die Aktuelle's piece reads. "To be too good to be true?"
Unsurprisingly, Schumacher's fans were appalled at the stunt, calling it "disgraceful."
"What an incredibly cruel thing to do to his family, absolute scumbag behavior," motorsport writer Hazel Southwell tweeted.
"Absolutely zero respect shown to the Schumacher family," F1 publication PlanetF1 wrote. "Who on earth would think this was a good idea?"
The AI-generated interview described Schumacher's recovery following his fateful accident in excruciating detail.
"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," the AI Schumacher allegedly said, as quoted by The Independent. "I’ve had a tough time but the hospital team has managed to bring me back to my family."
At the end of the lengthy interview, Die Aktuelle admitted to using Character.ai, an AI chatbot, to generate the answers.
German media commentator Boris Rosenkranz slammed the piece for being "too stupid to be true" in a blog post.
The tabloid already has a history with Schumacher's family, as The Independent pointed out. His wife Corinna Schumacher sued Die Aktuelle back in 2015 for using her picture with the headline a "new love makes her happy," despite the fact that the story was about her daughter.
The lawsuit was later dismissed.
"If one had asked the AI what Michael Schumacher thought of tabloid journalism, they would've gotten this answer," Rosenkranz wrote. "'I haven't had any good experiences with it! The tabloids are constantly telling lies and don't have any respect!'"
"The AI may have written that, but it must've gotten it from somewhere, right?" he concluded.
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