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AI Deepfake frames High School Professor as 'racist' with fake voice recording

Written by: Molly-Anna MaQuirl | Posted: 03-05-2024

AI Deepfake frames High School Professor as 'racist' with fake voice recording

This is an AI-generated image created with Midjourney by Molly-Anna MaQuirl

In a disturbing case that highlights the growing dangers of artificial intelligence, a high school principal in Baltimore County, Maryland was recently framed as racist by a fake AI-generated voice recording. The incident has sparked concerns about the ethics of deepfake technology and how it can be used to cause serious harm.

The Pikesville High School Case 

According to police, the school's athletic director Dazhon Darien allegedly used AI to deepfake the voice of Principal Eric Eiswert. The fake recording contained racist and antisemitic comments and was emailed to some teachers before spreading rapidly on social media.

The bogus audio forced Eiswert to go on leave while facing a barrage of angry calls and hateful messages. Police had to guard his house as the false allegations took hold. Only after expert analysis determined the recording was AI-generated and edited was Eiswert exonerated.

Authorities say Darien created the fake recording after Eiswert raised concerns about his job performance and alleged misuse of school funds. The incident demonstrates how this powerful technology can be weaponized by anyone with an internet connection and malicious intent.

The Risks of Deepfake Technology 

While manipulating audio and video is not new, AI has made it far easier, faster and cheaper than ever before. With just a short voice sample from sources like voicemails or social media, machine learning algorithms can convincingly duplicate a person's speech. The results can then be edited to say anything the creator wants.

AI-generated disinformation has already been used in disturbing ways:

Experts warn that as the technology rapidly improves, videos will be just as easy to manipulate as audio. This case serves as a "canary in the coal mine" for the need to better regulate deepfakes before they are used for even more sinister purposes.

The Need for Oversight and Education 

Most companies providing voice deepfake tech claim to prohibit misuse, but oversight varies. Some require "voice signatures" or make users recite unique phrases. But bad actors can still slip through. Larger companies like Meta and OpenAI limit access, but determined abusers find workarounds.

Digital forensics expert Hany Farid says requiring ID verification to trace misuse back to creators would help. He also suggests imperceptibly watermarking audio and images to flag manipulation.

Alexandra Reeve Givens of the Center for Democracy & Technology believes the most important steps are:

  • Law enforcement cracking down on criminal deepfakes

  • Educating the public about the risks

  • Pushing for responsible conduct from AI companies and social media platforms

However, banning the tech outright could stifle positive applications like translation and accessibility tools. Global alignment on ethics and guidelines is also a challenge given cultural differences in how AI is used.

The Bottom Line 

The Pikesville High School case is a stark reminder that in the age of deepfakes, reputation destruction is just a few clicks away. No one is safe from being framed with fabricated evidence that can spread like wildfire online.

As AI grows increasingly powerful, society must grapple with how to mitigate the grave harm it can enable while still harnessing its potential for good. Improved security measures, education, and oversight are urgently needed. If a high school principal can be targeted this way, anyone can - with potentially life-ruining consequences.

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AI Deepfake frames High School Professor as 'racist' with fake voice recording

Written by: Molly-Anna MaQuirl | Posted: 03-05-2024

AI Deepfake frames High School Professor as 'racist' with fake voice recording

This is an AI-generated image created with Midjourney by Molly-Anna MaQuirl

In a disturbing case that highlights the growing dangers of artificial intelligence, a high school principal in Baltimore County, Maryland was recently framed as racist by a fake AI-generated voice recording. The incident has sparked concerns about the ethics of deepfake technology and how it can be used to cause serious harm.

The Pikesville High School Case 

According to police, the school's athletic director Dazhon Darien allegedly used AI to deepfake the voice of Principal Eric Eiswert. The fake recording contained racist and antisemitic comments and was emailed to some teachers before spreading rapidly on social media.

The bogus audio forced Eiswert to go on leave while facing a barrage of angry calls and hateful messages. Police had to guard his house as the false allegations took hold. Only after expert analysis determined the recording was AI-generated and edited was Eiswert exonerated.

Authorities say Darien created the fake recording after Eiswert raised concerns about his job performance and alleged misuse of school funds. The incident demonstrates how this powerful technology can be weaponized by anyone with an internet connection and malicious intent.

The Risks of Deepfake Technology 

While manipulating audio and video is not new, AI has made it far easier, faster and cheaper than ever before. With just a short voice sample from sources like voicemails or social media, machine learning algorithms can convincingly duplicate a person's speech. The results can then be edited to say anything the creator wants.

AI-generated disinformation has already been used in disturbing ways:

Experts warn that as the technology rapidly improves, videos will be just as easy to manipulate as audio. This case serves as a "canary in the coal mine" for the need to better regulate deepfakes before they are used for even more sinister purposes.

The Need for Oversight and Education 

Most companies providing voice deepfake tech claim to prohibit misuse, but oversight varies. Some require "voice signatures" or make users recite unique phrases. But bad actors can still slip through. Larger companies like Meta and OpenAI limit access, but determined abusers find workarounds.

Digital forensics expert Hany Farid says requiring ID verification to trace misuse back to creators would help. He also suggests imperceptibly watermarking audio and images to flag manipulation.

Alexandra Reeve Givens of the Center for Democracy & Technology believes the most important steps are:

  • Law enforcement cracking down on criminal deepfakes

  • Educating the public about the risks

  • Pushing for responsible conduct from AI companies and social media platforms

However, banning the tech outright could stifle positive applications like translation and accessibility tools. Global alignment on ethics and guidelines is also a challenge given cultural differences in how AI is used.

The Bottom Line 

The Pikesville High School case is a stark reminder that in the age of deepfakes, reputation destruction is just a few clicks away. No one is safe from being framed with fabricated evidence that can spread like wildfire online.

As AI grows increasingly powerful, society must grapple with how to mitigate the grave harm it can enable while still harnessing its potential for good. Improved security measures, education, and oversight are urgently needed. If a high school principal can be targeted this way, anyone can - with potentially life-ruining consequences.