A New Jersey high school has been rocked by a new-age nude photos scandal involving artificial intelligence.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a student or group of students used an AI tool online to produce nude images of girls who attend Westfield High School.
The drama began to unfold on Mon., Oct. 16th, when the school’s boys began acting “weird,” said one mother as she recounted her daughter’s thoughts on the matter.
The “weird” behavior led to questions, which in turn led to one boy revealing the truth on Oct. 20th.
“At least one student had used an AI-powered website to make pornographic images using girls’ photos found online, then shared them with other boys in group chats. Girls at Westfield reported the situation to school administrators, who began interviewing boys who might have known more information,” according to the Journal.
— @moderateRepandDem (@moderateRepand1) October 27, 2023
By that evening, Westfield High School principal Mary Asfendis had dispatched an email to parents claiming the images had since been deleted.
“This is a very serious incident. New technologies have made it possible to falsify images and students need to know the impact and damage those actions can cause to others,” she wrote, adding that she intends to teach kids about responsibly using AI.
Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle also responded to the scandal, saying in a statement, “To be in a situation where you see young girls traumatized at a vulnerable stage of their lives is hard to witness.”
She added that she hopes the girls who were affected — who had their pictures used to create fake AI nudes — speak openly with the police.
One victim is Dorota Mani’s 14-year-old daughter.
“I am terrified by how this is going to surface and when. My daughter has a bright future and no one can guarantee this won’t impact her professionally, academically or socially,” Mani said.
“At first I cried, and then I decided I should not be sad. I should be mad and should advocate for myself and the other victims,” her daughter, Francesca, added during a meet-up this Monday at Mani’s home.
“Among the attendees were parents of other students, along with Brindle, [New Jersey state Sen. Jon] Bramnick, three female town-council members and a school-board member,” the Journal notes.
— BPR (@BIZPACReview) June 22, 2023
The meet-up came after a group counseling session at school earlier in the day. During the counseling, some of the girls expressed discomfort over still going to school knowing that the perpetrator still hasn’t been identified.
“The incident has made some of her female classmates rethink what they post online, she said, given how little control they have over how it can be used. Some, she said, deleted their social-media accounts,” the Journal notes.
“We’re aware that there are creepy guys out there, but you’d never think one of your classmates would violate you like this,” one of the girls said.
Politicians for their part responded to the scandal by proposing legislation that would criminalize the creation and distribution of AI porn.
“Jon Bramnick, a New Jersey state senator whose district includes Westfield, is looking into whether there are any existing state laws or pending bills that would criminalize the creation and sharing of such material. If not, he said he intends to draft a bill that would,” according to the Journal.
“This has to be a serious crime in New Jersey,” he said.
He added that he’s put in a request for the Union County prosecutor to look into what happened at Westfield High.
— BPR (@BIZPACReview) May 30, 2023
All this comes months after former Google CEO Eric Schmidt warned that artificial intelligence (AI) could be “misused by evil people” to cause harm, even death.
Speaking at the time at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London, Schmidt specifically warned that AI is an “existential risk” to humanity.
“And existential risk is defined as many, many, many, many people harmed or killed,” he bluntly said.
“There are scenarios not today, but reasonably soon, where these systems will be able to find zero-day exploits in cyber issues or discover new kinds of biology. Now, this is fiction today, but its reasoning is likely to be true. And when that happens, we want to be ready to know how to make sure these things are not misused by evil people,” he added.
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