Athletic Teacher Arrested for Framing Principal Using AI Voice Cloning

A former athletic teacher at a Baltimore County high school, Dazhon Darien, has been arrested and charged with using an AI voice cloning service to frame the school’s principal, Eric Eiswert. The incident came to light after a recording circulated on social media in January, purportedly capturing Eiswert making racist and antisemitic remarks, which briefly led to his suspension.

However, the investigation by Baltimore County police revealed the recording to be fake, citing peculiarities such as a monotonous tone, pristine background noise, and absence of natural pauses or breaths. Authorities traced the origins of the recording to Dazhon Darien, who reportedly gained unauthorized access to school computers to utilize ‘OpenAI tools and Microsoft Bing Chat services‘, as reported by WBAL 11 and NBC News. The former athletic director’s involvement was substantiated by his mention in the audio clip and connections to the release via an email address and associated phone number. Darien’s alleged motive appears to stem from Eiswert’s investigation into potential mismanagement of school funds, with police asserting that the recording was crafted as retaliation.

Police arrested Darien at the airport on Thursday, and said in a statement, “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.” Darien faces multiple charges, including theft related to the mishandling of school funds, disruption of school operations, witness retaliation, and stalking. Despite being released on bail, the legal repercussions loom large for Darien.

Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough and other local officials speak at a news conference in Towson, Maryland, on Thursday April 25, 2024. The officials discussed the arrest of a high school athletic director on charges ​that he used artificial intelligence to impersonate a principal on an audio recording that included racist and antisemitic comments. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The increasing utilization of AI-powered voice cloning technology has drawn attention for its ability to replicate human voice convincingly. However, misuse of such technology has raised concerns, as evidenced by various incidents including political manipulation and fraud. The political party of Imran Khan, the jailed former prime minister of Pakistan, used ElevenLabs, a popular commercially available text-to-voice generation platform, to replicate his voice during the campaign. Two Texas companies were linked to a fake robocall pretending to be President Joe Biden telling people not to vote. The Federal Communications Commission banned the use of AI robocalls in February. And of course, the fake Drake used AI to create the song “Heart on My Sleeve.” In response, regulatory bodies have taken measures to curb misuse, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on AI-driven robocalls.

The ethical implications surrounding AI voice cloning prompted OpenAI to restrict access to its AI text-to-voice generation platform, Voice Engine, from public use in March. Meanwhile, US lawmakers have proposed legislation, such as the No Fakes Act and the No AI Fraud Act, aimed at safeguarding individuals’ identities from unauthorized exploitation by technology companies.

As investigations unfold and legal proceedings progress, the case serves as a cautionary tale highlighting the potential pitfalls of unchecked technological advancements and the importance of ethical usage frameworks.

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