Artificial Intelligence at Its Worst

Artificial Intelligence at Its Worst

By Shelly Palmer

In a disturbing exploitation of AI, former Pikesville High School (Maryland) athletic director Dazhon Darien was arrested for allegedly impersonating the school’s principal using AI voice synthesis to disseminate false racist and antisemitic statements. The synthetic audio, widely shared on social media, inaccurately portrayed the principal expressing derogatory views about Black students and the Jewish community, triggering widespread condemnation and significant disruptions at the school.

Darien was apprehended at Baltimore-Washington International Airport under dramatic circumstances, as he was found carrying a firearm and was attempting to board a flight to Houston. The motivations behind his actions were reportedlyretaliatory, linked to an investigation initiated by the principal into improper financial transactions involving Darien.

In a press release, Baltimore County, Maryland officials noted the following:

“Based on an extensive investigation, detectives now have conclusive evidence the recording was not authentic. As part of their investigation, detectives requested a forensic analyst contracted with the FBI to analyze the recording. The results from that analysis indicated the recording contained traces of AI-generated content. Following that finding, detectives obtained a second opinion from a forensic analyst with the University of California, Berkley who also determined the recording was not authentic. Based on that information and further investigation, it’s been determined the recording was generated through the use of artificial intelligence technology.

“It’s believed Mr. Darien, who was an Athletic Director at Pikesville High School, made the recording to retaliate against Mr. Eiswert who at the time was pursuing an investigation into the potential mishandling of school funds.”

The backlash to the fake audio was severe. The principal faced a temporary removal from his role, and the school environment was charged with distrust and fear, necessitating increased police presence. This misuse of AI underscores the urgent need for robust ethical frameworks and legal measures to govern the deployment of such potent technologies.

I haven’t heard the clip, but experts brought in by the authorities suggested that the cloned voice was created using ElevenLabs, a popular voice cloning tool. The broader implications of this incident are obvious. This kind of crime was not possible before the consumerization of AI.

We should follow this case closely. What crimes will this defendant be charged with? How are the laws written? Are they comprehensive enough? Do the punishments fit the crimes?

This was reprinted with the author’s permission.