FCC wants to make most AI-generated robocalls illegal

FILE-A close up detail of a person working at a desk with a smartphone. (Photo by Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pushing to make unsolicited AI-generated robocalls targeting consumers illegal. 

News of the agency’s proposal comes after an apparent robocall used artificial intelligence to mimic President Joe Biden's voice and discourage voters in New Hampshire from coming to the polls during the state’s primary election on Jan. 23. 

This plan would ban these robocalls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991, which restricts the making of telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. 

RELATED: AI-generated robocall impersonates Biden, tells New Hampshire Democrats not to vote Tuesday

According to an FCC release, in November 2023, the FCC launched a Notice of Inquiry to build a record on how the agency can combat illegal robocalls and how AI might be involved.

"AI-generated voice cloning and images are already sowing confusion by tricking consumers into thinking scams and frauds are legitimate.  No matter what celebrity or politician you favor, or what your relationship is with your kin when they call for help, it is possible we could all be a target of these faked calls," FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement in the release.  "That’s why the FCC is taking steps to recognize this emerging technology as illegal under existing law, giving our partners at State Attorneys General offices across the country new tools they can use to crack down on these scams and protect consumers."

RELATED: States sue telecom company accused of making billions of robocalls to people on Do Not Call Registry

Generative AI deepfakes have already appeared in campaign ads in the 2024 presidential race, and the technology has been misused to spread misinformation in multiple elections across the globe over the past year.

The FCC noted that the agency will work with authorities and state attorneys general to stop illegal robocalls, the release noted. 

An apparent attempt at voter suppression using rapidly advancing generative AI technology is an example of what experts warn will make 2024 a year of election disinformation globally. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.