FCC Outlaws AI-Generated Voices in Robocalls

Steep fines await those who attempt to use the technology to manipulate voters, scam people
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2024 10:30 AM CST
FCC Outlaws AI-Generated Voices in Robocalls
Jessica Rosenworcel, then an FCC commissioner, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 24, 2020.   (Alex Wong/Pool via AP, File)

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday outlawed robocalls that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence, a decision that sends a clear message that exploiting the technology to scam people and mislead voters won't be tolerated. The unanimous ruling targets robocalls made with AI voice-cloning tools under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law restricting junk calls that use artificial and prerecorded voice messages, reports the AP. The announcement comes as New Hampshire authorities are advancing their investigation into AI-generated robocalls that mimicked President Biden's voice to discourage people from voting in the state's first-in-the-nation primary last month.

Effective immediately, the regulation empowers the FCC to fine companies that use AI voices in their calls or block the service providers that carry them. It also opens the door for call recipients to file lawsuits and gives state attorneys general a new mechanism to crack down on violators, according to the FCC. "Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters," says the agency's chair, Jessica Rosenworcel. "We're putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice."

Those who break the law can face steep fines, maxing out at more than $23,000 per call, the FCC said. The law also gives call recipients the right to take legal action and potentially recover up to $1,500 in damages for each unwanted call. Rosenworcel said the commission started looking at making robocalls with AI-generated voices illegal because it saw a rise in these types of calls. Audio recordings that use AI to convincingly imitate people seem "like something from the far-off future, but this threat is already here," Rosenworcel tells the AP. "All of us could be on the receiving end of these faked calls, so that's why we felt the time to act was now."

(More FCC stories.)

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