Parents use AI to revive voices of their children lost to gun violence |


On the sixth anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, grieving parents launched an advocacy campaign using artificial intelligence to bring back the voices of children killed in school shootings over the years. The project aims to persuade Congress to pass meaningful gun control legislation finally.
The nonprofit organisation Change the Ref, founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver after their 17-year-old son Joaquin was killed in the Parkland shooting, led the initiative. They worked with five other families who lost children to gun violence to use AI to recreate their voices to call congressional offices and advocate for reform.
The website for the project, The Shotline, allows people to direct one of the AI-generated calls to their representatives’ offices. The voices were created using advanced deepfake audio technology from ElevenLabs, the same service that can clone anyone’s voice with just a few minutes of sample audio. While jarring, the founders say that shocking people is the only way to cut through legislators’ ongoing lack of action. Joaquin, Oliver’s father, said, “If we need to use creepy stuff to fix it, welcome to the creepy.”
The calls feature the revived voices of high school students and young children introducing themselves and explaining that their parents brought their voices back using technology to urge action on gun safety measures. The voices implore lawmakers to “finally do something to protect kids from guns” and say they will “keep calling again and again until you pass gun reform laws.”
However, these parents did not have enough clear audio of their children to produce a perfect recreation. The team behind the project had to work with low-quality video clips and home recordings, yet the results are still remarkably realistic facsimiles.
When he played the generated voice of his slain 10-year-old son for the first time, Uvalde’s father, Brett Cross, said, “I bawled hard. When I think about it, I tear up.” The technology gave him chills, making it seem like his son Uzi was still alive.
The ability to train chatbots to mimic deceased people’s conversational patterns exists, too. Still, the parents involved said this project focuses only on conveying the specific messages they believe their children would have wanted to communicate.
While most deepfake experiments have dubious motives, communications professor Aram Sinnreich told The Washington Post that this application strives for social good. “Is this just a new way to use people’s likeness for persuasive speech? Or is it a kind of soul-snatching abomination?” he said. “I suspect it’s the first.”
Still, the project raises ethical questions about the rights to deceased people’s voices and Appropriate posthumous usage. It also opens the door for potential misuse down the line. However, the parents partnering with Change the Ref said their only goal is bringing awareness and change that could save young lives.
“If we need to use creepy stuff to fix it, welcome to the creepy,” said Manuel Oliver, father of 17-year-old Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver. For these grieving parents, no method is off the table if it means preventing more deaths.


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