A federal agency is pushing to outlaw AI-generated robocalls after criminals tried to disrupt New Hampshire’s Democratic primary with a deepfake phone call from President Biden. The phone call from our sitting President told voters to stay home last weekend in an “unlawful” attempt at voter suppression, according to the state’s Attorney General.
“AI-generated voice cloning and images are already sowing confusion by tricking consumers into thinking scams and frauds are legitimate,” said Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release. “That’s why the FCC is taking steps to recognize this emerging technology as illegal under existing law.”
Just a month into 2024, AI deepfakes are already tearing America apart. First, AI was used to impersonate President Biden in New Hampshire. Then, Taylor Swift was reportedly furious after AI-generated, sexually explicit deepfakes of her went viral on X. Now, the FCC is taking its first step in combatting the issue. Whereas robocalls used to consist of anonymous telemarketers, AI is fooling people into believing their friends, loved ones, and government officials are calling them up. Americans receive roughly 2.1 billion spam calls every month, according to Truecaller, and a higher percentage of them will likely be deepfakes moving forward.
Audio experts traced Biden’s New Hampshire deepfake back to the AI startup ElevenLabs’ technology, reports Wired. It’s still unclear who was behind this action, and the attempt seems to have been largely ineffective. Biden voters turned out in record numbers despite this attempt at voter suppression.
The FCC says it would like to make deepfake robocalls illegal under an existing law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. The law states that artificial or prerecorded voice calls cannot be made to residential telephone lines. These deepfake calls seem to already fall under that category, but the FCC is responsible for upholding and implementing this law.
The FCC says it will provide new tools to state AGs across the country to go after bad actors behind the nefarious robocalls. The FCC’s office did not specify what tools would be used to identify AI-generated calls and did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s questions about the technology. Kamala Harris previously discussed the White House’s efforts to combat AI robocalls back in November.
With a presidential election on the horizon, deepfake technology presents a significant concern in terms of voter suppression. The Biden robocall was the first attempt, occurring in one of the first presidential primaries of 2024 election. However, this certainly won’t be the last deepfake robocall a voter receives before November’s election.