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Police arrest high school athletic director for deepfaking principal’s voice

In brief: Baltimore police arrested a high school athletic director after he allegedly created an AI-generated recording of the school’s principal making racist and antisemitic remarks and circulating it on social media. He faces charges, including theft, stalking, disruption of school operations, and retaliation against a witness.

According to NBC News, police arrested former Pikesville High School athletic director Dazhon Darien as he was attempting to board a flight to Houston, Texas. Transportation Security Administration officials detained Darien over the packaging of a declared firearm. When local police arrived, they arrested him after running a background check and finding an outstanding arrest warrant.

Darien allegedly posted the now-deleted audio clip to multiple unnamed social media sites in January. The primary voice in the audio clip sounded like Pikesville High’s principal, Eric Eiswert. It appeared to be a conversation with an unnamed individual.

The police report notes that in the course of the dialog, Eiswert says that African-American students couldn’t “test their way out of a paper bag.” He also made slanderous comments about people in the Jewish community and two school employees who “should never have been hired.”

Eiswert was temporarily relieved of his duties after the audio went public. He received high volumes of venomous messages online, and the school received countless phone calls from outraged community members.

Eiswert told police that he believed Darien fabricated the audio using AI in retaliation for his contract not being renewed due to poor work performance, alleged mishandling of school funds, and for terminating a long-time coach without approval in 2023. He also said he believed Darien was tech-savvy and knowledgeable about using AI tools.

“[Darien was] technologically savvy and believed he was familiar with AI,” Eiswert told police.

Detectives found evidence that Darien had accessed the school’s network several times in December and January to search for “OpenAI tools.” Investigators subsequently linked him to multiple paid OpenAI accounts.

The FBI contracted a university professor and forensics expert to analyze the recording. He found that the file contained traces of AI-generated content. The architect of the recording also added a background track of ambient noises to make it sound more natural. A second analysis by the University of California, Berkley, concluded that someone had manipulated the audio file.

Image credit: Shuttersv

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