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Robocalls with AI-Generated Voices Are Now Illegal, the FCC Declares

Robocalls with AI-Generated Voices Are Now Illegal, the FCC Declares

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has declared AI-generated voice robocalls illegal in the United States to combat the rising misuse of technology in unwarranted communications.

This decision was announced on Feb. 8, following unanimous approval of a Declaratory Ruling under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). It aims to provide the State Attorneys General with more robust tools against fraud. The ruling trails incidents where New Hampshire residents got fake voice messages, mimicking President Biden, advising against voting in the primary.

“State Attorneys General will now have new tools to crack down on these scams and ensure the public is protected from fraud and misinformation.”

Also read: Alert Grandma Avoids Losing Thousands in AI Voice-Cloning Scam

The crux of the FCC’s decision

The FCC’s latest ruling places AI-generated voices, used in robocalls without the recipient’s consent, under the “artificial” communications prohibited by the TCPA. The TCPA, enacted in 1991, primarily shields consumers from unsolicited telemarketing calls, including those made by automated systems or with pre-recorded messages.

“The Federal Communications Commission announced the unanimous adoption of a Declaratory Ruling that recognizes calls made with AI-generated voices are “artificial” under the TCPA.”

The ban on AI voice-cloning technology for such calls shows the government’s priority in protecting citizens. This drive aims to shield people from advanced scams that utilize weaknesses, impersonate public figures, and spread fake news.

This is highly significant as it tackles the technological advancements that allow con artists to create more realistic and deceiving robocalls. The FCC treats AI-generated voice calls in the same category as other forms of prohibited communication; hence, consumers must now give their written consent before they receive these calls.

“Under FCC rules, it also requires telemarketers to obtain prior express written consent from consumers before robocalling them.”

A response to a growing threat

The FCC’s action directly results from the increase in AI-powered robocall scams that have become more frequent and advanced over the last few years. The imitation of celebrities, politicians, and even close relatives voices by artificial intelligence is a formidable challenge in the struggle against misinformation and fraud.

The FCC chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, stressed the importance of the agency looking at AI technology as a means to defraud. This ruling, thereby, aims to prevent the propagation of fake news and guard individuals against extortion and other adverse effects of such frauds.

“We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.”

The immediate implication of the rule implies the FCC’s priority in dealing with these issues, especially in the wake of recent events that show the ability of AI voice calls to compromise electoral processes and exploit human weaknesses.

Enforcement and future implications

The new ruling is set to be enforced with a firm stance to combat the abuse of AI in robocalls. Tracing the recent fraudulent calls disguised as President Biden to a Texas-based firm and an individual shows the competence of law enforcement to uncover and counteract the entities behind such operations. This exemplifies the broader consequences of the FCC’s decision, shedding light on the possibility of stricter enforcement actions against similar violations.

The FCC’s ruling not only broadens the scope of the TCPA but also signals a significant step forward in adapting regulatory frameworks to keep pace with technological modernization. As this new ruling takes effect, a pivotal question emerges: How will this decision shape the future of telecommunications and consumer protection in an age where technological capabilities are advancing at an unprecedented rate?

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.

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