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FCC bans AI-generated robocalls after fake Biden call urges Dems not to vote

Feb 9

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As the 2024 election cycle begins, an unprecedented challenge looms on the horizon, demanding heightened vigilance from voters. The emergence of robocalls and AI-generated deepfakes poses a serious threat to election integrity, pushing authorities to confront these issues with newfound urgency.

As an example of this new challenge, a robocall sounding eerily similar to President Joe Biden was identified as an AI-generated attempt to dissuade voters from participating in New Hampshire’s primary in January.

Authorities traced the robocall back to two Texas-based companies, issuing cease-and-desist orders against them. New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella is treating the incident as a case of illegal voter suppression.

In response to the growing concern over such practices, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took action on Thursday, Feb. 8, announcing an immediate ban on scam robocalls utilizing AI-generated “voice cloning” technology. This ruling aims to bolster election security and combat misinformation effectively.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks commented on the ban, highlighting the dangers posed by malicious use of AI technologies. According to Starks, these technologies not only threaten election integrity but also public safety, exploiting the most vulnerable members of society.

The FCC’s ruling empowers state authorities to actively pursue and prosecute those behind such nefarious activities. Leveraging the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the FCC has already been active in charging robocallers and telephone scammers. This new step ensures that AI technologies — including voice cloning — fall under the act’s jurisdiction.

The implications of these violations are far-reaching, with penalties reaching up to $1,500 per incident and no cap on damages. This could amount to nearly $38 million in damages, considering that nearly 25,000 people, predominantly Democrats, received the misleading calls impersonating Biden.

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[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

WE COULD EXPERIENCE SOMETHING IN THE 2024 ELECTION CYCLE THAT GOES BEYOND ANYTHING THAT’S HAPPENED IN PREVIOUS CAMPAIGN YEARS. AND IT’S GOING TO REQUIRE VOTERS TO BE ON HIGH ALERT. 

A SURGE IN ROBOCALLS AND AI DEEPFAKES ARE THREATENING ELECTION INTEGRITY AND CHALLENGING AUTHORITIES LIKE NEVER BEFORE.

[AI GENERATED VOICE OF JOE BIDEN]

“We’ll need your help in electing Democrats up and down the ticket. Voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to reelect Donald Trump again.”

[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

AUTHORITIES SAY THIS ROBOCALL, WHICH SOUNDS LIKE PRESIDENT BIDEN, IS AN AI-GENERATED VOICE ATTEMPTING TO DISCOURAGE PEOPLE FROM VOTING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE’S PRIMARY LAST MONTH. PROSECUTORS SO FAR HAVE SENT CEASE-AND-DESIST ORDERS TO TWO TEXAS-BASED COMPANIES BELIEVED TO BE CONNECTED TO THE CALLS. NEW HAMPSHIRE’S ATTORNEY GENERAL IS PURSUING IT AS ILLEGAL VOTER SUPPRESSION. 

ON THURSDAY THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ANNOUNCED AN IMMEDIATE BAN ON SCAM ROBOCALLS USING AI-GENERATED “VOICE CLONING.”

FCC COMMISSIONER GEOFFREY STARKS SAYS BAD ACTORS ARE USING THIS TECHNOLOGY TO THREATEN ELECTION INTEGRITY, HARM PUBLIC SAFETY, AND PREY ON THE MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF OUR SOCIETY.

THE FCC RULING GIVES STATE AUTHORITIES MORE POWER TO PURSUE AND PROSECUTE OFFENDERS. THE FCC ALREADY RELIES ON THE TELEPHONE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT TO BRING CHARGES AGAINST ROBOCALLERS AND TELEPHONE SCAMMERS. THIS STEP ENSURES AI TECHNOLOGIES LIKE VOICE CLONING ARE COVERED UNDER THE ACT.

THESE AREN’T PENALTIES THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. VIOLATIONS CAN RUN AS HIGH AS 15-HUNDRED DOLLARS PER INCIDENT – AND THERE’S NO LIMIT ON DAMAGES.

INVESTIGATORS FOUND THAT NEARLY 25,000 PEOPLE, MOSTLY DEMOCRATS, RECEIVED PHONE CALLS IMPERSONATING BIDEN. THAT WOULD BE NEARLY $38 MILLION IN DAMAGES IF EVERY CALL WERE FINED TO THE MAX.