Baltimore school principal targeted in faked audio AI scam

In Baltimore, Maryland a former high school sports director has been arrested for using artificial intelligence to impersonate a principal, making the public believe he had made racist and anti-semitic comments.

Dazhon Darien was detained by Baltimore County Police after he targeted the head of Pikesville High School, Eric Eiswert.

As revealed by the Baltimore Banner, an audio clip was posted to a prominent Instagram account, revealing offensive remarks referencing “ungrateful Black kids” and their academic performance, and another comment containing a threat to “join the other side” if the speaker received one more complaint from “one more Jew in this community”.

The recording also featured the names of other staff members, suggesting they should not have been hired and opining they should be removed “one way or another.” Darien’s nickname, “DJ,” was featured too.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed Darien has been charged with disrupting school activities after he was found to have faked the voice of Eiswert and spread the content online. The police said the perpetrator accessed school networks to search for and utilize AI programs to develop the fake audio.

Darien was also traced to an email account which was used to distribute the faked audio.

How the Pikesville High School scam was found to be fake

As expected, the leaked audio led to uproar from students and the wider school community, with many believing the principal had made the comments. A Pikesville teacher named Shaena Ravanell is said to have played a key role in forwarding the clip. She has not been charged but police made clear she was known to have sent the content to a student who was known to be able to rapidly disseminate information via social media.

The student amplified the reach of the audio clip, including sending it to media outlets and the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Experts have indicated there was steadfast evidence to show the purported voice of EIswert in the clip was AI-generated. They pointed out its flat tone, distinct clear background sounds and the absence of consistent breathing noises or pauses, as typical features of AI.

Image credit: Ideogram

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Graeme Hanna