In a decisive move against the burgeoning misuse of artificial intelligence in telecommunications, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has introduced a new rule that prohibits the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls. This regulatory step comes in response to growing concerns over the potential for AI technologies to be exploited for fraudulent activities, including scams and misinformation campaigns.
Robocalls, automated phone calls that deliver pre-recorded messages, have long been a source of annoyance for many, utilized extensively for telemarketing and political canvassing. However, the advent of AI has escalated the threat they pose, enabling the creation of calls that mimic well-known personalities such as Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, or even US President Joe Biden. A notable incident in January saw over 20,000 people receive a robocall featuring a counterfeit Biden voice, misleadingly urging Democrats not to vote.
While scamming via telephone is already illegal, the FCC’s latest regulation specifically targets the use of AI to craft the voices employed in these robocalls. This move aims to broaden the legal framework available for state law enforcement agencies to prosecute those responsible for these calls.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the regulation, emphasizing the commission’s commitment to combating the malicious use of AI-generated voices. “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters,” Rosenworcel stated. The new rule grants State Attorneys General enhanced capabilities to pursue and penalize the fraudsters behind these deceptive practices.
This action by the FCC is grounded in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 for each infraction, potentially amounting to substantial penalties for violators. For example, in August 2023, the FCC imposed a $300 million fine on the orchestrators of an auto warranty robocall scheme, responsible for over five billion robocalls to more than 500 million phone numbers within just three months.
While the effectiveness of this new regulation as a deterrent is yet to be fully assessed, it represents a significant step towards safeguarding the public from the risks associated with AI in telecommunications. The initiative reflects a balanced approach to regulation, acknowledging the potential for misuse of both AI and regulatory measures themselves. This development underscores the FCC’s proactive stance in addressing the complex challenges posed by the integration of AI technologies into everyday communication channels.