Police say ex-employee used AI to frame Baltimore school principal as antisemitic

Authorities say former athletic director used software to fake recording of boss, in which he threatens to ‘join other side’ over frustration with complaints from Jewish community

This undated photo shows the The Pikesville High School sign on the school property, in the Baltimore area, Maryland, on April 25, 2024. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
This undated photo shows the The Pikesville High School sign on the school property, in the Baltimore area, Maryland, on April 25, 2024. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

JTA — A former athletic director of a Baltimore-area high school was arrested Thursday morning and charged with using artificial intelligence to fake antisemitic and racist comments supposedly made by the school’s principal.

The case was part of a growing body of AI-generated impersonation incidents, which experts say is a newfound worry in a growing, barely regulated field of technology. This was an unusual instance of faking antisemitic comments in order to damage a public figure’s reputation.

Baltimore County police charged Dazhon Darien, formerly of Pikesville High School, with disrupting school activities. Authorities said he had used the school’s network to access OpenAI software allowing him to fake a recording attributed to principal Eric Eiswert, according to the Baltimore Banner, a local nonprofit newsroom.

In the recording, a voice sounding like Eiswert says, “If I have to get one more complaint from one more Jew in this community, I’m going to join the other side.” The voice also made racist remarks about Black students. Pikesville is in the center of greater Baltimore’s Jewish community.

The recording spread on social media in January and was also sent to at least three district teachers, including one who told police she forwarded it to a student knowing they would quickly spread it online. An email address linked to Darien sent the audio to various sources.

Some in the community were quick to attribute the comments to Eiswert, who is white, alluding to a history of tension with minority communities. “I am in no way surprised by his comments in this recording,” Deray Mckesson, a prominent racial justice activist from the Baltimore area who said he had had Eiswert as a high school teacher, wrote on the social network X in January. He called for Eiswert to “be fired immediately” and for his teaching license to “be permanently revoked.”

Superintendent Myriam Rogers said the comments were “highly offensive and inappropriate statements about African American students, Pikesville High School staff, and Pikesville’s Jewish community.”

But Eiswert denied making the comments, and questions were soon raised about the voice’s authenticity. Both the local authorities and the school district soon mounted investigations. Eiswert has not worked at the school since they began, although the district would not say if he was removed from his position.

In March, AI experts told local news the audio was most likely faked, citing its flat quality and lack of consistent breathing sounds.

“From the beginning of this incident, the recording seemed odd and suspicious,” Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Thursday. Libit said this was why the organization had held off on any initial comment.

“I am appreciative for the police and school system taking the time to investigate and to apparently get to the bottom of what really happened,” Libit added. “It is scary to see how AI can be manipulated like this and do such damage to a school community and an individual.  We have enough incidents of antisemitism and racism in our communities without things like this.”

In the charging document, the police note that Eiswert suspected that Darien created the fake recording as payback after his contract was not renewed.

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