American voters should no longer receive calls from an AI

The United States has taken a first measure against the use of artificial intelligence during the election campaign: the use of AI-generated voices in automated calls is now prohibited.

After the fake calls from Joe Biden during last month’s New Hampshire primary, a US authority has banned automated calls containing AI-generated voices. This is the very first measure taken across the Atlantic to combat the use of AI in an election campaign context, nine months before the presidential election in the country. The announcement, relayed on Thursday, February 8 by Associated Press, was made by the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC.

This authority has decided to ban these “unsolicited phone calls to scam vulnerable family members, to impersonate celebrities and to misinform voters“, said Jessica Rosenworcel, the president of the FCC, in a statement published on February 8. Because “we can all be victims of these calls“, acknowledged the official, referring to the use of AI for the purpose of manipulating public opinion, but also for scams.

Express consent now essential

Several cases of scams, in which a person’s voice was generated by AI to extort money from relatives, have made headlines in the United States. Now, “calls using this technology to simulate a human voice are illegal unless the callers have obtained prior express consent. This also means that when these calls occur, state attorneys general across the country can sue (those who are) behind these automated calls and seek damages under the law“, details the official.

Until now, it was possible to trace the perpetrators of these calls if there had been fraud or scams. With this new law, simply making a phone call using a voice generated by AI is liable to prosecution. For the president of the FCC, the country’s authorities now have “new tools to clamp down on these scams and ensure public protection against fraud and misinformation”.

Also read: When AI Allows for Multiplying Political Deepfakes

A rule applicable immediately, under penalty of sanctions

The rule is applicable immediately: it will allow the FCC to impose fines on anyone using AI-generated voices in their calls. It will also allow state attorneys general and victims to prosecute the offenders, explains the authority. In concrete terms, the bill for the authors of these messages could be hefty: it could reach €21,000 per call. The recipients of these calls could be eligible for compensation of €1,390 for each call received.

As we explained to you at the end of January, it is common in the United States to receive prerecorded calls from presidential candidates on their phones: a loophole that some people sought to exploit to disrupt the Democratic primary, which took place on January 23 in New Hampshire. A few days before the vote, voters heard Joe Biden, the outgoing Democratic president, declare: “These are just nonsense. Your vote will make a difference in November, not this Tuesday.” The American president urged voters not to vote: words he never uttered, which were generated by AI. According to the New Hampshire Attorney General, who has opened an investigation, the automated call could come from a company based in Texas.

No federal law on the subject to date

With generative AI tools accessible to everyone and currently almost free, it is now easy, fast, and inexpensive to create “personalized disinformation content”. We remember the video intended to sideline Joe Biden, depicting an apocalyptic future in the event of the Democratic president’s re-election, or the generated voice of Donald Trump intended to disparage him. As the American primaries approached, the cases multiplied, and fears of the use of AI for manipulation purposes increased.

Also read: AI Will Poison Political Discourse, and We Have No Tools to Guard Against It

And although there has been talk of regulating AI during this election campaign, no consensus has yet emerged in Congress. Nine months before the American presidential election, no federal law has been passed. This first measure, although limited to automated calls, could herald others.

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Source :

Associated Press

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