The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a new rule on Thursday that bans the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls, granting state attorneys general to pursue legal action against the telemarketing scams.
The ruling from the FCC comes shortly after a bipartisan coalition of 26 state attorneys general urged the FCC to take action to restrict the use of AI in telemarketing and just days after New Hampshire authorities traced robocalls using an AI-generated voice of President Joe Biden ahead of the state’s primary to a shadowy Texas telecommunications firm.
“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities and misinform voters,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We’re putting 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.”
The commissioners agreed that AI-generated voices are considered “artificial” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The act is meant to help limit junk calls by restricting telemarketing calls, the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages.
Those who break the law could face fines up to $23,000 per call and recipients of the scam calls have the right to take legal action and potentially recover up to $1,500 for each unwanted call, according to the Associated Press.
Consumer concerns against imposter scams and robocalls topped the Federal Trade Commission’s recent biennial report to Congress regarding the National Do Not Call Registry. During the 2023 fiscal year, more than 2.6 million people signed up with the registry, bringing it to 249 million registrants. And while consumers remain concerned about robocalls, the number of complaints about them declined by more than 900,000 from 2022 to 2023, according to the FTC.
The decision comes one week after Rosenworcel proposed that voices generated by AI should be made illegal under the TCPA.
In November, the FCC launched an inquiry to build a record on how the agency can best combat illegal robocalls and learn how AI might be involved. Conversely, the FCC also explored how AI can help the agency with pattern recognition in order to “turn the technology into a force for good that can recognize illegal robocalls before they ever reach consumers on the phone.” The agency has signed a memorandum of understanding with at least 48 attorneys general to work on the issue.