Excerpted from a Jackson Lewis PC Blog by Joseph J. Lazzarotti

As reported by CNN, a high school principal in Pikesville, Maryland, found his life and career turned upside down when in January a recording suggesting the principal made racially insensitive and antisemitic remarks went viral. The school faced a flood of calls from concerned persons, security was tightened, and the principal was placed on administrative leave. No doubt, a challenging situation for any HR executive, one made far more difficult because of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

An investigation ensured, all the while the school principal maintained that he did not make the statements in the recording – it was not his voice, he claimed.

It was not until months later, in late April, that a Baltimore County Police Department investigation concluded that the recording was a fake, a “deepfake,” generated by AI.

Deepfake AI is a type of AI used to create convincing images, audio and video hoaxes. Although deepfakes might have some utility, such as for entertainment purposes, they blur the lines between reality and fiction, making it increasingly difficult to discern truth from falsehood. As in the case of the Baltimore school principal, misuse raises significant concerns, particularly in the workplace. It turns out that the deepfake recording may have arisen from an employment dispute with the high school’s athletic director.

The US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have recognized the threat deepfakes present. At the same time, the technology is getting easier and easier to use and harder to identify. In this case, it took three months for the Baltimore County Policy Department to investigate and make a determination about the recording.

Consider being presented, as here, with a video, a recording, or some other image, photograph, or transcribed conversation, containing insensitive remarks purportedly made by an employee about race, religion, gender, etc. An organization might not have a police department that is able to assist, although they might have just as much pressure in the workplace from persons reacting to the content, believing it is authentic when it may be nothing more than a fake.

Having an internal plan outlining a process for investigation and resources lined up to evaluate the material would help to ensure that intentionality and thoughtfulness. Such a plan might also guide decision making around the various employment decisions to be made along the way, including internal and external communications, should the investigation carry on.

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