The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday banned unwanted robocalls generated by artificial intelligence, amid growing concerns about election misinformation and consumer fraud facilitated by the technology.
The FCC's unanimous decision cited a three-decade-old law aimed at curbing unwanted phone calls, clarifying that AI-generated spam calls are also illegal. In doing so, the agency said it expanded states' ability to prosecute the originators of unwanted robocalls.
“It sounds like something from the distant future, but it really exists,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to blackmail vulnerable family members, impersonate celebrities and mislead voters.”
Concerns about the use of artificial intelligence to imitate the voices and images of politicians and celebrities have grown in recent months as character-recreation technology takes off – especially ahead of the US presidential election in November.
Those concerns came to a head late last month, when thousands of voters received an unsolicited robocall from a fake voice of President Biden, ordering voters to abstain from voting in the first primaries of the election season. The state Attorney General's Office announced this week that it has opened a criminal investigation into a Texas-based company believed to be behind the robocall. The caller ID was spoofed to make it appear as if the calls were coming from the former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman.
Artificial intelligence has also been used to create fake videos and ads that mimic the voices and images of celebrities and politicians. This includes fake, uncredited videos of actor Tom Hanks promoting dental plans and sexually explicit videos of singer Taylor Swift.
Lawmakers have called for legislation to ban AI deepfakes in political ads, but no bill has gained much traction in Congress. In the vacuum of federal legislation, more than a dozen states have passed laws limiting the use of artificial intelligence in political ads.