US regulators announced on Thursday that scam “robocalls” made using voices created with artificial intelligence (AI) are illegal.
The phenomenon gained attention last month when US President Joe Biden's robocall hoax asked people not to cast ballots in the New Hampshire primary.
“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to exploit vulnerable family members, impersonate celebrities and misinform voters,” Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
“State attorneys general will now have new tools to crack down on these scams.”
The FCC unanimously ruled that AI-generated voices are “artificial” and thus violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The TCPA is the primary law used by the FCC to curb junk calls, limit telemarketing calls, and prevent the use of automated dialing systems.
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According to the FCC, the ruling makes voice cloning used in robocall scams illegal, allowing those behind such operations to be prosecuted.
Previously, law enforcement agencies could prosecute people for the results of scams, such as fraud with the help of robocalls, but not the calls themselves, regulators said.
The prevalence of such calls has increased in recent years with the help of automated calling systems, some of which even “spook” phone numbers to make them appear to be from locals.
A coalition of 26 state attorneys general is among those urging the FCC to limit the use of AI-generated voices in telemarketing calls.
“Technology is evolving and expanding by the minute, and we must ensure that these new developments are not used to prey, deceive or manipulate consumers,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a letter to the FCC from the coalition. January
“This new technology cannot be used as a loophole to trap users with illegal calls.”
New Hampshire's attorney general said Tuesday that Biden's deepfake robocall belonged to a Texas company that shares ownership with companies that provide robocalls to politicians.
The official estimated that Biden made between 5,000 and 25,000 calls using the simulated voice.
Experts fear deepfake disinformation will dominate the 2024 White House race as well as key elections around the world this year.
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