School Employee Used AI in Bid To Discredit Principal

Dazhon Darien
Dazhon Darien | Image by Dazhon Darien/Facebook

A Baltimore, Maryland, high school athletics director has been accused of using artificial intelligence to generate a hate speech-filled voice recording to frame the school principal.

Dazhon Darien is said to have created the fake recording to discredit Pikesville High School Principal Eric Eiswert, who was investigating Darien for misuse of school funds. The fake recording caused a significant backlash after Darien distributed it to the school’s teachers. The recording was ultimately leaked online, where it went viral.

Darien was arrested last Thursday by Baltimore County police. He has been charged with theft, stalking, disruption of school operations, and retaliation against a witness, according to Fox 4 KDFW.

Robert McCullough, chief of the Baltimore County Police Department, said officers began investigating the fake recording on January 17. The recording comprised a rant against black and Jewish students that Darien created to make it appear as though the conversation happened between Eiswert and a vice principal at the school. Police said they were continuing to investigate teachers at the school thought to be responsible for spreading the hate-filled message.

“It should be noted that comments in the recording spoke to [Eiswert’s] alleged frustrations with test scores of African American students and assertions that [African American students] were unable to ‘test their way out of a paper bag,'” charging documents obtained by The Baltimore Banner said.

“The recording went on to make disparaging comments about Jewish individuals and two teachers who ‘should have never been hired’ at the school,” the charging documents noted.

The release of the recording led parents and others in the community to post hateful messages online and forced the district to suspend the principal. The threats against the principal were so severe that a police detail was dispatched to his home for his safety. According to a report by the New York Post, Eiswert is expected to be reinstated.

Darien was arrested at a Maryland Airport where he was attempting to board a flight to Houston. It is not clear if he was just traveling or attempting to flee.

AI-generated deepfake content has been at the forefront of technology concerns in recent years. Cyber Defense Magazine reported that the World Economic Forum has seen a 900% increase in deepfake videos annually. The magazine cited several recent examples, including a cryptocurrency scam that used an AI-generated likeness of Elon Musk to defraud investors and cybercriminals who used AI to steal $35 million from a UAE bank.

In response to the growing threat, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Protecting Consumers from Deceptive AI Act on March 21. The bipartisan bill would establish safeguards to prevent AI from being used to create harmful situations like the one in Baltimore.

“AI offers incredible possibilities, but that promise comes with the danger of damaging credibility and trustworthiness,” Eshoo said in a statement. “AI-generated content has become so convincing that consumers need help identifying what they’re looking at and engaging with online. Deception from AI-generated content threatens our elections and national security, affects consumer trust, and challenges the credibility of our institutions.”

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