Take-aways for HR following Dazhon Darien’s deepfake recording of school principal Eric Eiswert’s voice to spread racist comments.

Dazhon Darien deepfake HR takeaways

What did Dazhon Darien do? 

Pikesville High School athletic director Dazhon Darien was arrested for allegedly creating and distributing a deepfake recording of the school principal's voice. The recording, which appeared to feature principal Eric Eiswert making disparaging comments about teachers, Jewish people, and Black students, was determined by forensic experts to contain AI-generated content and human editing. The email containing the recording was traced back to Darien through a subpoena to Google. Darien, who had previous conflicts with Eiswert, now faces charges of theft, stalking, retaliating against a witness, and disturbing school operations. Read more details here.

What is a deepfake?

A deepfake is a hyper-realistic digital manipulation of audio, video, or images created using advanced machine learning algorithms, making someone appear to say or do something they never actually did. Think of it as Photoshop on steroids, but for videos and voices. It is teaching a computer to convincingly replicate a person’s face, voice, and mannerisms. While this technology can be used for benign purposes like entertainment or education, it's often employed for dubious activities like political misinformation or framing someone for misconduct.

See the following example using Barack Obama:

What can HR do about deepfake?

So, what’s an HR department to do in this era of digital trickery? Here are a couple suggestions that might help:

  1. Review and update existing related policies regularly, for example Anti-Harassment, and make sure any guidelines address deepfake and any other new technologies.
  2. Mandate AI Literacy for HR staff and managers: Let’s face it, most of us can barely operate the office coffee machine, let alone understand the intricacies of AI and deepfakes. Time for some upskilling! Make AI literacy a core competency for (at minimum) your HR team. Offer workshops, online courses, or even just a crash course on “How Not to Get Duped by Deepfakes.”
  3. Encourage a Culture of Transparency: In a world where seeing is no longer believing, trust becomes your greatest asset. Foster an environment where employees feel safe reporting suspicious activities without fear of retaliation. This means having clear, confidential channels for reporting and ensuring that all reports are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

Takeaways for HR

As HR professionals, we’ve navigated the turbulent waters of social media scandals, inappropriate memes, and the occasional inter-office romance. But deepfakes? They’re a whole new beast. While it’s tempting to long for the simpler days when the biggest issue was an employee taking too many personal calls at their desk, we must face the reality of our times.

So, strap in and equip yourselves with knowledge, stay vigilant, and above all, keep a sense of humor. Because if we can’t laugh at the absurdity of it all, then what’s the point? Deepfakes may be the new nightmare in HR, but with a little preparation and a lot of skepticism, we can turn this digital disaster into just another day at the office.
And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll look back and laugh at the time we had to investigate a video of the CEO breakdancing in the boardroom, only to find out it was just another crafty deepfake. 

Ariane Laird Vancouver

Melina Laird is Operations Coordinator for ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  

You can contact her here.