US bans AI-generated voices used in scam robocalls after Biden deepfake

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AI-generated voices used in automated phone scams, such as the one used in a recent fake Biden robocall campaign, are now illegal under U.S. telemarketing laws.

US bans AI-generated voices used in scam robocalls after Biden deepfake

Artificial intelligence-generated voices used in unwarranted robocalls — or automated phone calls — are now officially illegal in the United States following a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision.

“Today the Federal Communications Commission announced the unanimous adoption of a Declaratory Ruling that recognizes calls made with AI-generated voices are ‘artificial’ under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA),” the agency said in a Feb. 8 statement.

“This would give State Attorneys General across the country new tools to go after bad actors behind these nefarious robocalls.”

The FCC’s ban came just weeks after New Hampshire residents received fake voice messages imitating U.S. President Joe Biden advising them against voting in the state’s primary election.

I stand with 50 attorneys general in pushing back against a company that allegedly used AI to impersonate the President in scam robocalls ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Deceptive practices such as this have no place in our democracy.

— AZ Attorney General Kris Mayes (@AZAGMayes) February 8, 2024

Robocall scams are already illegal under the TCPA — a U.S. law governing telemarketing. The latest ruling will also make “voice cloning technology” used in the scams illegal. The rule will take immediate effect, the FCC said. 

“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters. We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice,” said FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

The FCC first proposed outlawing AI robocalls under the TCPA on Jan. 31, a 1991 law regulating automated political and marketing calls made without the receiver’s consent.

The TCPA’s primary aim is to protect consumers from unwanted and intrusive communications or “junk calls” and restricts telemarketing calls, the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or pre-recorded voice messages.

We’re proud to join in this effort to protect consumers from AI-generated robocalls with a cease-and-desist letter sent to the Texas-based company in question.

— The FCC (@FCC) February 7, 2024

FCC rules also require telemarketers to obtain written consent from consumers before robocalling them. The ruling will now ensure that AI-generated voices in calls will also be held to the same standards.

The FCC said in its recent statement that AI-backed calls have escalated in the last few years and warned the technology now has the potential to confuse consumers with misinformation by imitating the voices of celebrities, political candidates and close family members.

It added while law enforcement has been able to target the outcome of an unwanted AI-voice-generated robocall — such as the scam or fraud they are seeking to perpetrate, the new ruling will allow law enforcement to go after scammers just for using AI to generate the voice in robocalls.

Related: Security researchers unveil deepfake AI audio attack that hijacks live conversations

Meanwhile, the alleged scammer behind the Biden robocalls in mid-January has been traced back to a Texas-based firm named Life Corporation and an individual named Walter Monk.

The Election Law Unit issued a cease-and-desist order to Life Corporation for violating the 2022 New Hampshire Revised Statutes Title LXIII on bribes, intimidation and suppression.

The order demands immediate compliance, and the unit reserves the right to take additional enforcement actions based on prior conduct.

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