FCC Makes AI-Based Robocalls Illegal

(RightWing.org) – For decades, American families were subjected to phone calls just as dinnertime rolled around. The people on the other end weren’t granny or Aunt Sue calling to see how things were going, all too often whoever was unfortunate enough to pick up the receiver heard something like, “Hello Mr. or Mrs. Smith, have you heard about our new and fantastic widgets?”

Beginning in 2003, people across the United States were able to place their phone numbers on a “do not call registry” that gave them a modicum of relief. Twenty years later, the intrusions are making a return using robocall programs combined with artificial intelligence (AI) deepfake technology, which can be much more problematic. This type of software can almost perfectly replicate a person’s voice and video image to suit any purpose the programmer chooses.

Government Action

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in a February 8 press release that it had unanimously agreed that “calls made with AI-generated voices” meet the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) definition of “artificial,” and are therefore illegal. However, they did not keep this enforcement with the federal government, instead, it gave additional powers to the Attorneys General of each state or territory.

One specific reason given for this crackdown was the possibility that the robocall could be used in a campaign of misinformation aimed at voters in the rapidly approaching 2024 presidential election. In fact, it’s been widely reported that one of these AI messages went out to New Hampshire voters just two days before the state’s primary election at the end of January.

The call in question was a simulation of President Joe Biden’s voice with both an anti-voting and -anti [former President Donald] Trump message. Those who took the time to listen were urged to forgo casting a ballot in the primary and “save” it for the general election because “voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again,” according to Reuters.

Other Deepfakes

The idea of having one’s computer hacked and intimate photos or videos uploaded to the internet has seen widespread coverage in the news over the years. The victims tend to be female by an overwhelming margin and can target celebrities in moneymaking schemes or the average Jane Doe who breaks off a relationship only to find herself to be the focus of revenge porn.

Having one’s image meant to be shared with their significant other plastered all over platforms like Facebook or X (formerly Twitter) is traumatizing enough, but AI has taken it to a whole other level. A person with the requisite skills and access to the right computer programs can take pictures and videos and manipulate them to create any manner of NC-17 movies.

One might have thought that when enough A-list stars became victims the powers-to-be would have acted to stop these invasions known to cause depression, humiliation, and suicidal thoughts and actions, among other mental stresses. One would be wrong. When the attacks happened to Kristin Bell and Scarlett Johansson they were met with a flurry of anger, which turned to a chorus of yawns in just a few days.

However, these creeps may have finally gone too far by turning their sights upon Taylor Swift and inciting her untold millions of fans known as Swifties, and many millions more who may not have known who she was before her relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs superstar tight end Travis Kelce. Perhaps the couple’s ultra megastar status and the blatant intrusion into presidential politics will spur Congress into regulating AI.

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