A Deep Dive into Deepfakes: A Q&A with AAA's Miroslava Schierholz and Bridget McCormack

Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2024

By: Kendal Enz

In our ongoing series on technological innovation at the American Arbitration Association® (AAA®), we delve into how our employees are pioneering emerging technologies to enhance our work and address complex challenges. Today’s feature is a conversation with Miroslava Schierholz, AAA-International Centre for Dispute Resolution® (AAA-ICDR®) assistant vice president of the ICDR Case Management Centre, and Bridget McCormack, AAA president and CEO. They share their insights into the exploration and ethical considerations of AI and deepfake technology—technology that creates images or recordings convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as saying or doing something they did not say or do—within the AAA.

Q: Can you tell us about your initial foray into AI-generated video and deepfake technology at the AAA?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 Our journey began with the goal to improve our learning and development videos. We were introduced to AI video platforms like Synthesia and HeyGen, which seemed like a promising alternative to the traditional method of producing content. This technology allowed us to create dynamic and easily updatable video content without the need for actors or extensive video editing experience.

Bridget McCormack: It's been exciting to see the team learn. AI-generated video technology gives us tools for innovation and efficiency. While the technology offers significant benefits, we're also mindful of the ethical and practical challenges it presents, especially in adjudication.

Q: What was a standout project involving this technology?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 I still had unused content creation credits after exploring HeyGen's text-to-video function and producing pilot tutorials for our internal case management system. In parallel, the AAA President's Award Committee, which I co-chair, proposed using video messaging to increase the visibility of the award and clarify the nomination process. (This internal award is given to AAA employees who exemplify our core values: leading with integrity, recognizing the importance of processes, providing exceptional service, educating and solving problems, continuously innovating and improving, and collaborating and embracing differences.) The timing was perfect: the available resources matched the needs exactly! I used my leftover HeyGen credits to create a video for the President's Award. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and felt akin to directing a small studio.

Q: What ethical considerations have you encountered in your work with deepfake technology?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 After attending a panel discussion on AI-powered tools in law, highlighting the dangers of deepfake technology, I wondered about the practical difficulties of producing a deepfake video and wanted to understand the associated risks better. I still had HeyGen credits left, so I created a short AI-generated video featuring Bridget, using one of her many online photos and a voice that resembled hers from the platform options. And that was pretty effortless. While the video wasn't a deepfake in the truest sense, it highlighted the technology's potential for creating convincingly realistic media. This experiment underscored the importance of consent and the risks of misuse.

Bridget McCormack: Miroslava's experiment was eye-opening and underscored the double-edged sword this technology presents. It's a powerful tool for products and services, but it also poses significant challenges, particularly in legal processes where the authenticity of evidence is crucial. We want to develop expertise to assist parties and panelists with issues relating to authenticity. 

Q: How does AAA approach the challenge of consent and misuse with AI and deepfake technology?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 Consent is paramount. To produce high-quality avatars, platforms like HeyGen require explicit permission from the individuals who are being represented. This policy is a critical safeguard against unauthorized use. Additionally, to ensure the responsible use of synthetic media, these platforms often include content moderation features, promoting "safe, respectful, and inclusive use." However, the technology's ease of use does raise concerns about potential misuse. For instance, the convincing nature of AI-generated voices and images can be problematic, as demonstrated by a synthetic voice that mimicked Joe Biden so closely it could easily deceive someone or the explicit AI-generated photos of Taylor Swift that recently circulated on X (formerly Twitter).

It’s heartening to see organizations like Partnership on AI are leading efforts to build digital trust and combat misinformation by promoting best practices and enhancing content verification.

Q: What role do companies like the AAA play in mitigating the risks associated with this technology?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 The AAA has a significant responsibility to ensure the ethical use of technology. We've established internal and external guidelines that balance innovation with integrity, ensuring our AI experiments are conducted safely and responsibly. It's about fostering an environment where innovation can thrive, but not at the expense of ethical standards or privacy.

Bridget McCormack: Absolutely. As leaders, we must proactively address the practical and ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies. This means not only setting internal standards but also advocating for broader industry and legal frameworks that ensure these tools are used responsibly.

Q: Looking ahead, how do you see AI and deepfake technology evolving in digital communication at the AAA?

Miroslava Schierholz:
 These technologies have tremendous potential to revolutionize how we communicate and educate within the AAA and beyond. Video messaging, for example, can make information delivery more engaging and efficient. However, we must be mindful of the content's authenticity and the length of videos to cater to attention spans, ensuring that AI enhances our work without compromising our values or the trust we've built.

Bridget McCormack: The future is undoubtedly exciting, and with thoughtful application and adherence to ethical standards, AI video technology can significantly enhance our ability to communicate, educate, and engage. As we navigate this new terrain, our focus will remain on leveraging these advancements to benefit our work and users.


This conversation with Miroslava Schierholz and Bridget McCormack highlights the AAA's proactive approach to exploring and integrating AI and its awareness of the risks associated with deepfake technology. By balancing innovation with ethical considerations, the AAA sets a precedent for responsible technology use in the industry, ensuring that advancements enhance our work and the legal field rather than undermine it.