German tabloid Die Aktuelle has been slammed for “disgusting” behavior after running a fake interview with a reclusive Formula 1 champion generated by a chatbot and suggesting it was real.
“Michael Schumacher: the first interview!” reads the big headline on the cover of the latest issue of Die Aktuelle, a German tabloid weekly.
The cover also features a file picture of the smiling seven-time Formula 1 world champion and trumpets the interview as a “world sensation” in bold letters.
Only a smaller print at the bottom of the magazine says the interview “sounds deceptively real,” which German commentators noted was a legal trick to avoid potential trouble this might cause for the magazine and not to make clear it was fake.
Schumacher has not been seen in public since he suffered a brain injury during a skiing incident in December 2013. His family has so far succeeded in protecting the racing star’s privacy despite public interest in his life afterward.
Inside the sheet, Die Aktuelle says it has used “websites where you can have conversations with celebrities” to conduct the interview, noting that “answers are provided by artificial intelligence.”
One such website, called character.ai, allows users to hold an AI-generated conversation with celebrities ranging from singer Billie Eilish to Queen Elizabeth II.
Unlike character.ai, which has a disclaimer notifying users that all conversations they have with the chatbot are made up, Die Aktuelle goes to great lengths to suggest Schumacher’s interview could be real.
“Someone must have entered the information – as in Wikipedia – on the internet,” the magazine says before adding, “Was it Schumi himself who typed in the information from his sickbed? Or was it someone in the family, a nurse, or an employee?”
Writing for Übermedien, a German media blog, author Boris Rosenkranz noted Die Aktuelle was notorious for its lies and manipulated stories, but this one was particularly “impertinent” and “stupid.”
“Simply disgusting,” said Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, a Cologne-based daily, while news website news.de described Die Aktuelle as a “gossip rag” with another “shocking” Schumacher cover.
Previously, Die Aktuelle made headlines for misleading readers with a Schumacher cover that suggested the picture of the racer featured on it was the first taken after his skiing accident.
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