The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declared on Thursday that utilising artificial intelligence (AI)-generated voices in phone calls is against the law, following an incident where a fraudulent robocall impersonating President Joe Biden circulated ahead of New Hampshire’s Democratic primary election.
According to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, the recent ruling equips state attorneys general with additional measures to pursue those responsible for such robocalls, as reported by Reuters. “Fraudsters are exploiting AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to manipulate vulnerable individuals, mimic public figures, and mislead voters. We are sending a clear message to those behind these schemes,” Rosenworcel stated.
This new ruling marks a shift, as previously, state attorneys general could only address the consequences of receiving unwanted AI-generated robocalls. However, the FCC’s latest action explicitly prohibits the use of AI to fabricate voices for such calls.
The origin of the fake Biden robocall was traced to Life Corp, a Texas-based company headed by Walter Monk, as revealed by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella earlier this week. Formella disclosed that a cease-and-desist order has been issued to the company, with a criminal investigation currently underway.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks emphasised the heightened threat posed by the emergence of generative AI in voter suppression tactics and political campaigns. “The advancement of voice cloning technology has elevated the credibility of fake robocalls, presenting a significant challenge,” Starks remarked.
The Problem With Voice Cloning
The FCC underscored that “voice cloning” through AI can deceive recipients into believing that a trusted individual, such as a family member, is urging them to take actions they wouldn’t typically consider.
This crackdown on illegal robocalls comes on the heels of the FCC’s 2023 decision to impose a $5.1 million fine on conservative activists for orchestrating over 1,100 unlawful robocalls ahead of the 2020 US election. These calls aimed to dissuade potential voters by falsely claiming that voting by mail would expose their personal information to law enforcement agencies and credit card companies.
This alteration in tactics by the FCC reflects a proactive approach to combatting fraudulent robocalls and safeguarding the integrity of democratic processes.