The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecommunications regulatory body in the US, banned this Thursday (8) automatic phone calls generated by artificial intelligence, amid growing concerns about electoral misinformation and consumer fraud facilitated by technology.
The FCC’s unanimous ruling cited a three-decade-old law aimed at combating unwanted phone calls, clarifying that AI-generated spam calls are also illegal.
In doing so, the agency said it expanded states’ ability to prosecute creators of unsolicited spam robocalls.
“It seems like something from the distant future, but it’s already here,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, impersonate celebrities, and misinform voters.”
Concerns about using AI to replicate the voices and images of politicians and celebrities have risen in recent months as the technology to recreate people has taken off, especially in relation to the US presidential election in November.
Those concerns came to a head last month when thousands of voters received an unsolicited robocall from a fake voice of President Joe Biden instructing them to abstain from voting in the first primary 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 it believes was behind the robocall. The caller ID was spoofed to appear as if the calls were coming from the former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
AI has also been used to create deepfake videos and advertisements that imitate the voices and images of celebrities and politicians. These include fake and unapproved videos of actor Tom Hanks promoting dental plans and one with sexually explicit content of singer Taylor Swift.
Lawmakers have called for legislation to ban AI deepfakes in political ads, but no bill has gained traction in Congress. In the absence of federal legislation, more than a dozen states have passed laws to restrict the use of AI in political ads.