Robocaller Fined $6M for Using AI to Mimic Biden’s Voice

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The FCC has proposed a $6 million fine for a scammer who used voice-cloning technology to impersonate President Biden in a series of illegal robocalls during a New Hampshire primary election. While the focus is more on the robocalls than AI, the agency is clearly sending a message to other potential high-tech scammers.

In January, many voters in New Hampshire received a call that appeared to be a message from the President, urging them not to vote in the upcoming primary. This was, of course, fake — a voice clone of President Biden created using technology that has become widely accessible in the last few years.

Although creating a fake voice has been possible for a long time, generative AI platforms have made it effortless: numerous services offer cloned voices with minimal restrictions or oversight. Making your own Biden voice is now fairly simple with just a minute or two of his speeches, which are easily found online.

What you cannot do, as the FCC and several law enforcement agencies have emphasized, is use that fake Biden voice to suppress voters through robocalls, which were already illegal.

“We will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that bad actors cannot use U.S. telecommunications networks to facilitate the misuse of generative AI technology to interfere with elections, defraud consumers, or compromise sensitive data,” said Loyaan Egal, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in a press release.

“Political consultant” Steve Kramer was the primary culprit, though he sought help from the dubious Life Corporation (previously charged with illegal robocalls) and the calling services of the shady telecom company Lingo, also known by various other names including Americatel, BullsEyeComm, Clear Choice Communications, Excel Telecommunications, Impact Telecom, Matrix Business Technologies, Startec Global Communications, Trinsic Communications, and VarTec Telecom.

Kramer is “apparently” in violation of several rules, but as of now, there are no criminal proceedings against him or his collaborators. This is a limitation of the FCC’s power: they must collaborate with local or federal law enforcement to enforce their determinations of liability as an expert agency.

The $6 million fine is more of an upper limit or goal; as with the FTC and other agencies, the actual amount paid is often much less for various reasons, but even so, it’s a significant sum. The next step is for Kramer to respond to the allegations, though separate actions are being taken against Lingo, or whatever name they go by now, which may result in fines or lost licenses.

AI-generated voices were officially declared illegal to use in robocalls in February, after the above case prompted the question of whether they counted as “artificial” — and the FCC decided, quite sensibly, that they do.

Devin Coldewey
Devin Coldewey
Devin Coldewey is a Seattle-based writer and photographer. He first wrote for TechCrunch in 2007. Devin covers many topics in technology, science, and space. In the past, he has written for MSNBC.com, NBC News, DPReview, and others. He has also appeared on radio, television, and in print.

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