AI-generated voice calls are made ILLEGAL in US – and FCC says ruling ‘takes effect immediately’

  • Federal Communications Commission hopes to stop scams and misinformation
  • ‘We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice,’ said FCC chair 

Scam and spam robocalls featuring lifelike AI-generated human voices are now officially illegal, in a unanimous ruling by the Federal Communications Commission.

The phenomenon gained attention last month when a robocall impersonation of US President Joe Biden urged people to not cast ballots in the New Hampshire primary 

The new ruling, issued Thursday, promised to give ‘State Attorneys General across the country new tools to go after bad actors behind these nefarious robocalls.’

‘Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters,’ FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release.

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

Following the new ruling, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel (above) said, 'We're putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.'

Following the new ruling, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel (above) said, ‘We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.’

‘State Attorneys General will now have new tools to crack down on these scams and ensure the public is protected from fraud and misinformation,’ Rosenworcel said.

The FCC ruling will expand what activities prosecutors can pursue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which is currently the primary law allowing the authorities to help limit junk calls. 

But the FCC also said that it is pursuing its own use cases for AI, employing pattern recognition software in an effort to recognize illegal robocalls ‘before they ever reach consumers on the phone.’

The FCC has been investigation the issue since last November, when it launched a Notice of Inquiry to investigation the extent to which sophisticated AI tools are being deployed in illegal robocalls and what new policies could help stem the tide. 

Following today’s ruling, the federal agency noted that these types of phone scams have been on the rise over the past few years.

The FCC ruling will expand what activities prosecutors and US State Attorneys Generals can pursue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is currently the primary law allowing the authorities to help limit junk calls

The FCC ruling will expand what activities prosecutors and US State Attorneys Generals can pursue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is currently the primary law allowing the authorities to help limit junk calls

‘This technology now has the potential,’ the FCC said in a statement, ‘to confuse consumers with misinformation by imitating the voices of celebrities, political candidates, and close family members.’

Prior to today’s ruling, US State Attorneys General had only been empowered to retroactively pursue the less digital or less virtual crimes — such as extortion or voter suppression — after these schemes had progressed beyond the robocall itself.

Now the FCC has made the very act of employing AI to generate the voices used in these robocalls illegal on its own.  

The commission’s ruling today will also expand the legal avenues available to other state law enforcement agencies, as well as to the general public and the commission itself via civil court cases.

Under this new ruling, the FCC said that it has civil enforcement authority to fine AI-generated robocallers, as well as to block telephone carriers and other telecommunications firms from activities that help facilitate these illegal robocalls. 

This ‘Declaratory Ruling’ expanding the meaning and reach of the TCPA to include AI-generated robocalls will also allow individual consumers and organizations to bring a lawsuit against offending robocallers.

‘It seems like something from the far-off future, but this threat is already here,’ FCC chair Rosenworcel told the Associated Press, when asked about the timing of today’s ruling.

‘All of us could be on the receiving end of these faked calls, so that’s why we felt the time to act was now.’ 

The Attorney General for New Hampshire on Tuesday said the deepfake robocall of Biden was traced to a Texas company that shares ownership with companies that provide robocalls to politicians.

The official estimated that between 5,000 and 25,000 calls were made using Biden’s impersonated voice.

Experts fear a deluge of deepfake disinformation in the 2024 White House race as well as in key elections around the globe this year.