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Laguna Beach High School is investigating “inappropriate” AI-generated images of students

Laguna Beach High School administrators have launched an investigation after a student allegedly used artificial intelligence to create and distribute “inappropriate images” of other students.

It is not clear how many students are involved in the scandal, what exactly the images contained or how they were distributed.

In a March 25 email to parents, Principal Jason Allemann wrote that school leadership is “taking steps to investigate and address this issue directly with those involved, while also using this situation as a teachable moment for our students and the “Underline the importance of responsible behavior and mutual respect.”

Laguna Beach police are assisting in the investigation, but a department spokesman declined to provide details about the investigation because the people involved were minors.

Orange County High School joins a growing number of educational institutions exploring the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom and social settings.

In schools across the country, people have used deepfake technology combined with real images of female students to create fraudulent images of naked bodies. The deepfake images can be created using a cell phone.

Last month, five Beverly Hills eighth-graders were expelled from school for their involvement in creating and sharing fake nude photos of their classmates. Students used artificial intelligence to superimpose simulated naked bodies onto images of their classmates’ faces. According to the district, a total of 16 eighth-graders were targeted in the images, which were shared via messaging apps.

A 16-year-old high school student in Calabasas said a former friend used AI to create and distribute pornographic images of her. KABC-TV reported last month.

It’s not just teenagers who are targeted by AI-generated images. In January, AI-generated sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift were shared across social media. The situation led to angry fans calling on lawmakers to pass laws to protect against the creation and sharing of deepfake images.

“It’s a very challenging area and technological advances and capabilities are occurring at a very rapid pace, making it all the more difficult to keep track of,” said Amy Mitchell, the executive director of the Center for News, Technology and Innovation, a center for policy research.

Several federal bills have been proposed, including the Preventing Deepfakes of Intimate Images Act, which would make it illegal to produce and share AI-generated sexually explicit material without the consent of the people depicted. The Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits (DEFIANCE Act), introduced this year, would allow victims to sue the creators of the deepfakes if they knew that the victim did not consent to the deepfakes being created.

In California, state lawmakers have proposed expanding laws banning revenge porn and child pornography to include computer-generated images.

School districts are also trying to get a handle on technology. This year, the Orange County Department of Education began holding monthly meetings with school districts to discuss the use of AI and its integration into the education system.

But the problem with manipulated images like those circulating at Laguna Beach High School is getting worse as the technology becomes more widespread and easier to use, experts say.

Artificial intelligence, particularly generative AI, continues to advance faster than society can responsibly absorb it, said Cindi Howson, chief data strategy officer at technology company ThoughtSpot.

“The world is on a learning curve for generative AI and it is evolving so quickly that we cannot simply leave it to regulators, the developers of AI or the schools themselves,” she said.

Parents, school districts, government and AI platform developers each have a role to play in implementing protective measures, Howson said. In the meantime, she suggests that parents monitor what apps their children use and talk to them about how this technology can be used and abused.

Artificial intelligence technology coupled with widespread social media use among teenagers who may not fully understand the consequences appears to be an intractable problem, said Sheri Morgan, a Laguna Beach resident whose daughter attends Laguna Beach High School.

“I think the social media that exists today further highlights this false sense of what you need, what you want, what you should look like and how people should perceive you,” she said. “We talk a lot with our kids about the impact of technology and social media and how we get lost in distraction, but it’s challenging.”

In Laguna Beach, district officials have not elaborated on the possible disciplinary options being considered by administrators. The district said in a statement that each incident is “treated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of the situation.”

The high school, which enrolls more than 1,000 students, plans to host panel discussions on AI-generated content for students during the school day. The panel will include the school resource officer, counselors, psychologists and digital media and library specialists, Allemann wrote in a follow-up email to parents on Friday.

“In our small community, these incidents can have far-reaching impacts on our campus culture,” Allemann wrote. “These actions not only compromise the dignity of the individual, but also undermine the positive and supportive environment we strive to foster at LBHS.”

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