German publisher sacks editor over 'tasteless' Michael Schumacher AI chatbot interview

23 April 2023, 07:16 | Updated: 23 April 2023, 07:18

The interview was actually an AI chatbot
The interview was actually an AI chatbot. Picture: Alamy/Die Aktuelle
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The parent company of a magazine that published an AI-generated interview with former F1 champion Michael Schumacher has sacked the editor who published it.

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Funke magazines has also apologised to the Schumacher family over the "tasteless" article it says never should have been published.

The article "does not in any way correspond to the standards of journalism that we - and our readers - expect from a publisher like Funke", according to the publisher's managing director Bianca Pohlmann.

Formula 1 fans were after the German magazine said it had a world exclusive interview with Schumacher – but the quotes all came from AI.

Die Aktuelle put a photo of the racing star on its front cover of its April 15 edition saying it was his first interview since a skiing accident.

Read more: Michael Schumacher's family to sue German magazine that said it had interviewed F1 legend - but had quotes from AI bot

Schumacher, the joint most successful F1 driver in history, has not been seen in public since suffering a brain injury in 2013 and being put into a coma.

While the 54-year-old is at home in Geneva, Switzerland, his wife has fiercely guarded his privacy and enforces a relatives-only rule for visitors.

Readers of Die Aktuelle will quickly discover the interview is actually from an AI chat programme.

Schumacher's family has said they are planning to sue over the "fake artificial intelligence" article.

The magazine described it as his "first interview"
The magazine described it as his "first interview". Picture: Die Aktuelle

The magazine says "it sounds deceptively real" on its front cover, under its "world sensation" headline.

The article says it was carried out by a chatbot called Character.ai and has not spoken to the racer or his family.

One motorsport fan wrote on Twitter that the interview was "shocking" and Schumacher's family “should be respected and have the privacy they deserve".

Schumacher has been in a coma for nearly a decade
Schumacher has been in a coma for nearly a decade. Picture: Alamy

Another account wrote: "We all look for stories which will grab attention etc – but that crosses all boundaries and lines."

Schumacher's condition since leaving hospital is unclear due to the intense privacy.

His wife Corinna did speak in the Netflix documentary Schumacher, when she said she misses him "every day".

"I mean, everybody misses Michael, but Michael is here. Different, but he's here and that gives us strength, I find," she said in the 2021 film.

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