‘World-exclusive interview’ with Michael Schumacher turns out to be a tasteless sham

‘World-exclusive interview’ with Michael Schumacher turns out to be a tasteless sham
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A German magazine has been branded a disgrace for publishing what it claimed to be a world-exclusive interview with Formula One icon Michael Schumacher.

The legendary driver, 54, has been out of the public eye since he was left paralysed in a horrific skiing accident almost a decade ago.

After being woken from a medically-induced coma, he was sent home from hospital to be looked after by his wife and a team of carers, who have remained fiercely protective of his privacy.

It, therefore, came as a shock to see Die Aktuelle plaster the sporting star’s smiling face on its 15th April front cover, boasting that it had secured an “incredible” one-to-one with him.

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However, the unsavoury truth is that the gossip mag had merely had a “conversation” with an AI programme that had been trained to mimic him.

In other words, it was entirely fake.

The article, which carried the headline ‘My life has completely changed’ and was structured as a Q&A, discussed “Schumacher’s” feelings about the 2013 accident and his future, The Timesreports.

It begins, according to The Mirror by hailing the quality of its “incredible interview”, saying: "No meagre, nebulous half-sentences from friends. But answers from him! By Michael Schumacher, 54 [...] With redeeming answers to the most burning questions that the whole world has been asking for so long."

It then goes on to set out “comments” from the man himself, including: “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.”

The source of the “discussion” appears to have been, a free chatbot website, which simulates answers from a range of famous figures.

And despite the uproar the piece has provoked, Die Aktuelle may well get away with the tasteless deception.

Lower down on the same front page that touts the “world sensation” interview, the magazine hints that all’s not as it seems, including the sub-headlines: “It sounds deceptively real", “What’s behind it?” and “Die Actuelle searches for clues.”

Then, in the text itself, further questions are posed as to the source’s credibility.

It reportedly posits: “There are in fact websites where you can have conversations with celebrities, but the answers are provided by artificial intelligence. But how does the AI know their personal backgrounds? Their marriages, their children, their illnesses?

“As with Wikipedia, someone must have put the information on the internet. Was it really Schumi himself who typed out this information from his sickbed? Or perhaps someone from his family, a carer or an employee? At any rate, the answers sound deceptively real. Too good to be true?”

As readers and social media users were quick to point out, there was nothing “good” about this stunt.

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