AI-created nude photos of classmates lead to arrests for some students

Stevie Hyder experienced feelings of nausea.

While at her Illinois high school recently, the 15-year-old was informed by a friend that one of her sophomore classmates was employing artificial intelligence (AI) to produce nude images of her. Numerous manipulated pictures of her and other teenage girls, including teachers, were circulating. When the principal contacted her mother, Hyder had become the 22nd girl on the list.

“Initially, it was very upsetting,” said Stephanie Essex, Hyder’s mother. “It didn’t take very long, though, before we both got very angry about the situation.”

That anger is swiftly becoming a sentiment echoed by many parents, especially those with young daughters, following a series of similar incidents nationwide. As AI becomes more prevalent in the American economy and culture, school administrators are monitoring its infiltration into schools.

However, policing this nascent technology poses challenges, as Hyder’s principal, Mike Baird, highlighted in a message to parents.

“As we reflect on recent events, it has become clear that we are facing new challenges in the realm of technology and social media,” he wrote in a March 15 letter. “There is no playbook for much of what we are encountering.”

As such incidents arise, principals and parents are compelled to navigate a mix of district policies and state laws, some of which are more stringent than others.

An incident in Florida resulted in the arrests of two middle school boys in December, according to a warrant obtained by USA TODAY. So far, consequences in other states and school districts have been less severe.

To prevent similar nightmares, experts suggest that administrators should clarify their rules on AI now.

“If we take preventative steps for everybody, we will put ourselves in a much better position than trying to play whack-a-mole,” said Kate Ruane, a free speech attorney at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Middle schoolers arrested in Miami

In December, two middle school boys at a Miami charter school were arrested on suspicion of using an AI app to create nude images of their classmates, aged between 12 and 13, as per an arrest warrant.

The boys were charged with third-degree felonies, citing a state law that prohibits the “unauthorized promotion of a sexually explicit image.” Several states, including Texas and Virginia, have laws concerning “deepfake” pornography.

Read more:Tech giants pledge crackdown on 2024 election AI deepfakes. Will they keep their promise?

According to Mary Anne Franks, a professor at George Washington University Law School and an expert on revenge porn laws, Florida’s statute is notably severe. However, she views the Miami case as an example of overcharging.

“That’s extraordinarily young to be charging someone with a felony,” she remarked.

The Florida Charter School Alliance, representing Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy where the boys attended, declined to comment, and their parents did not respond to requests for comment.

Beverly Hills students expelled over deepfake scandal

A few months later, a comparable scandal unfolded at a Beverly Hills middle school in California.

In February, five eighth-graders at Beverly Vista Middle School were implicated in using AI to superimpose the faces of 16 other eighth-graders onto nude body photos, according to CBS Los Angeles and a statement from the district.

The Beverly Hills Police Department initiated an investigation into the matter, as confirmed by department spokesperson Andrew Myers. The investigation is ongoing.

Read more:New Congressional task force could regulate use of AI but not focused on 2024 election

On March 6, the Beverly Hills Unified School District board approved stipulations for expelling the five eighth-graders involved, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“We recognize that kids are still learning and growing, and mistakes are part of this process,” stated Michael Bregy, the district superintendent. “However, accountability is essential, and appropriate measures have been taken.”

Schools in ‘uncharted territory,’ mom says

In the case of Stevie Hyder at Richmond-Burton Community High School in Illinois, the student behind the manipulated photos used his school email, as per Essex, Hyder’s mother. Administrators were unaware of the situation until another student reported it.

“Their filters should’ve caught something,” Essex commented. “It could’ve continued on for months.”

Baird, the principal, confirmed that the Richmond Police Department is investigating the incident, with law enforcement providing daily updates. He informed parents that the students implicated in creating the photos are unlikely to return for the remainder of the school year.

Hyder hopes that the repercussions of the photos won’t haunt her.

“This is uncharted territory,” expressed her mother.

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