Michael Schumacher’s family is planning to take legal action against a magazine that claimed to have secured an interview with the Formula One champion which turned out to use quotes generated by artificial intelligence.
German weekly magazine Die Aktuelle ran a front-page story with a picture of Schumacher and the headline “Michael Schumacher, the first interview” above a strapline reading: “It sounded deceptively real.”
Schumacher retreated from public life following a skiing accident on vacation in the French Alps in 2013. He was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering severe head injuries and has struggled with movement and communication during his years-long recovery, according to reports.
“My life has completely changed since [the accident],” Schumacher was supposedly quoted as saying in Die Aktuelle. “That was a horrible time for my wife, my children and the whole family.”
The legendary Ferrari driver also allegedly said: “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.”
But the “interview” with the seven-time F1 champion was only revealed at the end of the article to be fake, with the purported quotes cooked up by an AI-powered chatbot.
According to media reports, the bogus quotes appear to have been made using the Character.AI platform. The site allows users to have a conversation with chatbots adopting the persona of celebrities or fictional characters, and even lets users create their own bots.
“Needless to say, a hallucinating supercomputer is not a source of reliable information,” CharacterAI says on its website, adding that the technology is instead intended as a “useful tool for imagination, brainstorming, language learning, and a host of other purposes we have ourselves not yet imagined.”
Die Aktuelle has previously been at the center of controversy involving articles about Schumacher. In 2014, the outlet ran a front page featuring a picture of Schumacher and the headline “Awake!” which turned out to be an issue featuring stories of other people who had come out of comas. His fans complained that the magazine was exploiting the driver’s tragic accident.
Schumacher’s wife, Corinna, also lost a legal battle against the outlet a year later over a headline saying that a “new love” had entered her life. The article turned out to be about their daughter, Gina, according to ESPN.
“We’re trying to carry on as a family, the way Michael liked it and still does,” Corinna said of her husband in a 2021 Netflix documentary. “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.”
The row involving the fake quotes is just the latest bizarre episode to come at a time when the world is struggling to get to grips with the implications of rapidly accelerating, easily available AI technology. Earlier this week, a song featuring AI-recreations of the voices of Drake and the Weeknd was scrubbed from streaming services after going viral, and a German artist declined to accept a photography award after revealing he’d generated a prize-winning image with AI.