IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Robocalls Featuring AI-Generated Voices Deemed Illegal

Robocalls using artificial intelligence to fake human voices are illegal, federal authorities have ruled, two days after New Hampshire launched a criminal probe into calls spoofing the voice of President Biden.

(TNS) — Unsolicited robocalls using artificial intelligence to fake human voices are illegal, the Federal Communications Commission said in a ruling released Thursday, two days after N.H. Attorney General John Formella announced a criminal probe into thousands of such calls spoofing the voice of President Joe Biden.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act's existing provisions against artificial or prerecorded voice messages ban these types of robocalls, the commission said in its ruling.

"Callers that use such technologies must obtain the prior express consent of the called party to initiate such calls absent an emergency purpose or exemption," the ruling said.

Formella said Tuesday more than 5,000 New Hampshire residents received calls two days before the state's Jan. 23 presidential primary featuring Biden's fake voice urging people not to vote.

Biden's name was not printed on the ballot, but he won New Hampshire's Democratic Primary easily as a result of a write-in campaign, organizers of which condemned the robocalls. He did not file as a candidate in New Hampshire because the election was set for a date in conflict with the Democratic National Committee's schedule.

Formella said a voter suppression investigation has been launched against Texas-based Life Corp., and its owner Walter Monk, whom he said were responsible for the calls. No criminal charges have been filed. Monk and Life Corp. have not returned requests for comment.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks mentioned the New Hampshire calls in a written statement that accompanied the ruling.

"The use of generative AI has brought a fresh threat to voter suppression schemes and the campaign season with the heightened believability of fake robocalls," he said. "Another example: parents have been scared half to death hearing their child's voice on the other end of the line, saying they've been kidnapped, or need money to get out of trouble."

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said AI technology can "trick us into thinking all kinds of fake stuff is legitimate.

"Already we see this happening with Tom Hanks hawking dental plans online, a vile video featuring Taylor Swift, and calls from candidates for political office that are designed to confuse us about where and when to vote," she said in a statement.

"We also have stories of grandparents who are led to believe that it is really their grandchild on the phone begging for funds, only to learn later it was a bad actor preying on their willingness to forward money to family."

Formella said the calls in New Hampshire were targeted at Democrats.

Rosenworcel noted that all consumers deserve protection from this type of fakery.

"No matter what celebrity or politician you favor, or what your relationship is with your kin when they call for help, it is possible we could all be on the receiving end of these faked calls," she said.

© 2024 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.