FCC Immediately Bans AI-Generated Robocalls

The ruling comes ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

FCC Immediately Bans AI-Generated Robocalls
Photo of FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel used with permission.

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday banned the use of artificial intelligence to clone human voices for generating robocalls. 

The ruling extends the restrictions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to include current AI technologies capable of generating human voices under the category of “artificial or prerecorded voice.”

Unless the recipient of the call has given prior consent to be contacted, these technologies are now subject to regulation by the commission.

Thursday’s action, which comes ahead of the 2024 presidential election, follows a warning from the FCC to the suspected creators of a robocall scheme, which employed a deepfake of President Joe Biden‘s voice to dissuade New Hampshire voters from participating in the state’s Republican primary on January 23. 

The agency identified two Texas-based companies as the alleged culprits and issued a cease-and-desist order to one of them, Lingo Telecom, on Tuesday, stating that its network traffic could face blockage if it fails to cease the use of its network by illegal robocallers.

With the ruling, state attorneys general across the country can go after the bad actors behind these unwarranted robocalls and seek damages under the law.  

In fact, 26 state attorneys general wrote to the FCC supporting this approach, and the commission now has an understanding with 48 state AGs who have agreed to work with it to combat robocalls, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel confirmed in a statement.

This measure holds heightened significance as it coincides with an election year, underscoring need to uphold the integrity of the electoral process.

“The whole of government is rightly focused on whether and how to regulate AI,” FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement

Biden issued an executive order aimed at seizing the promise and managing the risks of AI. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has convened nine bipartisan AI insight forums. Legislators have introduced bills addressing the use of AI in dozens of contexts, including election integrity. 

In fact, a bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation that would ban the use of AI to generate content falsely depicting federal candidates to influence an election, and comprehensive robocall legislation announced just days ago would double the statutory penalty for calls using AI to impersonate an individual or entity with the intent to defraud.   

The FCC launched an inquiry in November into how it can use AI to help with pattern recognition so that it can turn the technology into a force for good that can recognize illegal robocalls.

The ruling announced on Thursday follows a proposal by Rosenworcel to ban AI-generated robocalls featuring cloned voices of celebrities and recipients’ family members, which was presented a week prior. While the decision was made public on Thursday, it was unanimously approved just two days after Rosenworcel put forth the proposal.

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