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Checklist 377: Should We Maybe Talk About Deep Fakes and A.I.?

May 31, 2024

Explore A.I. misuse: a teacher frames the principal with AI, and deepfakes disrupt voters. Stay in the know with this week’s episode of The Checklist.

Checklist 377 header image: Should we maybe talk about deep fakes and ai? written in red rext

Checklist 377: Should We Maybe Talk About Deep Fakes and A.I.?

In a startling case of A.I. misuse, a high school principal in Maryland found himself at the center of a scandal when an audio recording of him making racist and antisemitic remarks went viral. However, investigations revealed that the principal was a victim of an elaborate AI-generated hoax orchestrated by a PE teacher.

Earlier this year, the principal was placed on paid administrative leave after the offensive recording surfaced. Public outrage followed, questioning why he wasn’t immediately fired. NBC News reported that the principal’s suspension was a precautionary measure, as it became clear that the recording was falsified using AI technology.

Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough confirmed the finding, stating, “We now have conclusive evidence that the recording was not authentic… It’s been determined the recording was generated through the use of artificial intelligence technology.”

The investigation uncovered a history of conflict between the principal and the PE teacher, dubbed “Mr. PE.” The principal had been investigating Mr. PE for financial misconduct and unauthorized personnel decisions, which allegedly motivated the creation of the fake audio. The recording was disseminated to several teachers via email, traced back to an ISP linked to Mr. PE’s grandmother and accessed using school resources.

Further incriminating evidence included the use of AI tools like OpenAI and Microsoft Bing Chat by Mr. PE in the weeks leading up to the incident, and the recovery number for the email account linked to Los Angeles, where Mr. PE had connections.

Mr. PE was arrested at the airport, attempting to leave the state the day after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Authorities detained him when he failed to properly declare a firearm, revealing his outstanding warrant. He faces multiple charges including stalking, theft, disruption of school operations, and retaliation against a witness.

An official from Baltimore County Public Schools acknowledged the severe impact on the school community and the principal’s family. While there’s relief that the responsible party is facing justice, the long-term damage remains a concern. A union representative expressed hopes for healing and restoration for all affected parties.

This incident highlights the misuse of AI as a tool for personal vendettas rather than systemic dangers. The real threat came from an individual exploiting technology for malicious purposes, not from AI itself.

Source: NBC News

FCC Proposes AI Disclosure in Political Ads Amid Rising Concerns

In light of recent AI-related incidents impacting political processes, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a new regulation requiring political ads with AI-generated content to disclose this fact. This move comes as the 2024 elections approach and follows a series of alarming events where AI was used to manipulate voters.

Just over a week ago, the FCC suggested that political advertisements containing AI-generated material should include a clear disclosure to inform viewers. This proposal arrives in the wake of a notorious incident in New Hampshire, where deepfake technology was used to mimic President Joe Biden’s voice, urging voters to abstain from the primary election.

The incident, detailed in *The Register*, involved a single individual who managed to create a deepfake recording of President Biden. The person then employed a telemarketing firm to disseminate the fake message to over 5,000 voters, all for a mere $500. This effort was traced back to a spoofed number belonging to a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair.

The man behind the deepfake unabashedly acknowledged his actions to NBC News, stating, “For $500, I got about $5 million worth of action, whether that be media attention or regulatory action.” He now faces substantial penalties, including a $6 million fine from the FCC for election misinformation and unlawful call spoofing, alongside an additional $2 million fine against the telecommunications company involved. Furthermore, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has filed multiple charges against him, including 13 felony counts of voter suppression and 13 misdemeanor counts of impersonation of a candidate.

The FCC’s proposal, reported by TechCrunch, suggests that both candidate and issue ads must include disclosures about AI-generated content. However, this regulation would apply only to cable operators, satellite TV, and radio providers, not to streaming services or platforms like YouTube, which fall outside the FCC’s regulatory scope.

The proposal is still in its initial stages. The FCC intends to open a public comment period to determine the necessity and definition of AI-generated content in political ads. This step comes as political advertising activity intensifies and the election season heats up.

While this move by the FCC may seem belated to some, it represents a critical acknowledgment of AI’s potential to disrupt democratic processes. The effectiveness and enforcement of such regulations, especially given the limitations in scope, remain subjects of public and political debate.

Sources: The Register, TechCrunch

SecureMac Launches AI Awareness Hub Amid Rising AI Concerns

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to permeate various aspects of daily life, SecureMac has launched a dedicated section on its website to address AI-related security issues. This initiative aims to educate the public about AI and its implications for cybersecurity.

The new resource, found at, offers a range of content focused on AI awareness and security. Visitors can explore AI-centric stories, learn about potential security risks, and find practical security tips tailored for the AI era. The site also features episodes of The Checklist, a podcast by SecureMac, dedicated to AI topics.

SecureMac’s initiative comes at a time when AI stories are increasingly prevalent in the media. While the Checklist podcast could delve into AI issues every week, the team is cautious not to overwhelm their audience. Instead, they are consolidating vital information and resources in one accessible place.

For ongoing updates and in-depth AI security information, visit SecureMac’s AI page.

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