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FCC wants to outlaw AI-generated robocalls

Robocall

Was it really President Joe Biden calling voters in New Hampshire last month? No, it was a robocall with a voice made by artificial intelligence, and now the Federal Communications Commission wants to put a stop to the practice.

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The FCC wants to use the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, to make “voice cloning technology used in common robocalls scams targeting consumers illegal,” CNN reported. The law went into effect in 1991.

The TCPA controls telemarketing and robocalls and was previously used to fine conservative activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who ran a voter suppression campaign in the 2020 election. Calls were part of the campaign which told Black voters that they could be flagged for debt collectors or police departments if they cast a vote. Wohl and Burkman were fined $5 million.

Another case of auto warranty spam calls resulted in a nearly $300 million FCC fine against the companies that initiated the calls.

The TCPA as it stands now typically does not cover non-commercial robocalls, Deadline reported. Political calls are not allowed to be sent to mobile devices unless approved by the owner of the cellphone. Calls to landlines do not need prior consent.

In the most recent case, calls sent to New Hampshire voters used a computer-generated voice of Biden to tell voters not to cast a ballot ahead of last month’s primary election, NBC News reported.

The FCC’s five-person panel will vote on the measure, which is expected to pass, according to the news network. It will allow state attorneys general to charge companies that use AI to spam people.

“AI-generated voice cloning and images are already sowing confusion by tricking consumers into thinking scams and frauds are legitimate,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told NBC News via email.

There were about 55 billion robocalls made in 2023, according to YouMail, a blocking service, CNN reported. The group said the peak number of calls happened in 2019 with about 58.5 million.

There are steps you can take to prevent robocalls and telephone scams.

The FCC says:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
  • If you do answer, hang up immediately.
  • Be aware of the caller ID showing a local number. Numbers can be spoofed.
  • If asked to hit a button to stop calls, don’t. Just hang up.
  • Don’t give any personal information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, your mother’s maiden name, passwords or any other information.
  • Don’t answer any question that the caller wants only a “Yes.”
  • If someone says they’re from the government or a company, hang up and call the number that is on your statement or that is on the group’s official webpage.
  • If you are being pressured to give information immediately, use caution.
  • Set a password for voicemail to prevent hackers from accessing it.
  • Use call-blocking tools if your phone company has them.
  • Use robocall-blocking technology.
  • Register for the Do Not Call List.

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