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FCC Outlaws Robocalls Made With Artificial Intelligence

Agency says AI makes rampant scam calls a greater threat, but also hopes to use technology ‘for good’

VIDEO: FCC Wants to Fight Robocalls With Artificial Intelligence

The Federal Communications Commission outlawed robocalls that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence, a decision that sends a clear message that exploiting the technology to scam people and mislead voters won’t be tolerated.

The unanimous ruling targets robocalls made with AI voice-cloning tools. The agency cited the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law restricting junk calls that use artificial and prerecorded voice messages.

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The announcement comes as New Hampshire authorities investigate AI-generated robocalls that mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice to discourage people from voting in the state’s first-in-the-nation primary last month.

Effective immediately, the regulation empowers the FCC to fine companies that use AI voices in their calls or block the service providers that carry them. It opens the door for call recipients to file lawsuits and gives state attorneys general a new mechanism to crack down on violators, according to the agency.

“Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a news release. “We’re putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice.”​

A tool for misinformation, impostor scams, identity theft

The technology allows bad guys to create deep fakes all too easily. They can clone the voices of celebrities or your loved ones, convincing unsuspecting folks to part with their Social Security numbers, other sensitive personal information and often lifelong savings.

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Last year, the FCC received 120,000 written complaints about robocalls. Call-protection app YouMail estimated more than 50.3 billion illegal robocalls were made last year.

“It’s the issue that more consumers complain about than anything else,” Rosenworcel told Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer, in a discussion last fall.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a sister agency, reported that 20 percent of fraud cases begin with a phone call, she said.

“Fraud artists are creative,” Rosenworcel said. “They find new ways to get us. They start a scam, and when it doesn’t yield results, they move on to the next. We’ve got to figure out how to make sure regulatory and legislative efforts … keep up to date with the technology.”​

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  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.

Fighting back with artificial intelligence

Rosenworcel is upbeat about AI in some ways — specifically as a tool to fight AI-generated fraud.​

“The one thing I know about any battle is you’ve got to go in with optimism,” the FCC chairwoman told AARP. “And so at this point, while everyone is talking about AI and the scary prospects associated with its use in the long term, I want to, in the short term, explore how we can look at it on communications networks. It is better than any human being at identifying fraud and junk on networks. So let’s put it to use for good.”

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As part of that effort, the FCC teamed with the National Science Foundation to study how the airwaves that power our mobile phones can identify patterns of use.

“We can cut those bad actors responsible for robocalls and robotexts off before they ever reach you on your device or in your home,” Rosenworcel said. “If we can shut it out right at the moment, I think we can do a lot to restore trust in our networks.”

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel hopes to use artificial intelligence to stop robocalls before they reach your phone.

The FCC requires most large telecommunication companies to use a technical protocol called STIR/SHAKEN to verify that calls originate from the number that shows up on your phone.

Last July, the agency joined forces with the FTC, federal Justice Department and states’ attorneys general on an initiative called Operation Stop Scam Calls, which targets telemarketers and the companies that hire them. 

What consumers can do

  • Let it ring. “You don’t always have to answer the phone,” Rosenworcel said.
  • Don’t respond to any questions if you do answer, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out your account numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords, Social Security number or other personal identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • File a complaint at

“We’ll see what we can do to help you,” Rosenworcel said. “But just as important, when you file a complaint with us, we look for patterns. If a whole lot of people are filing complaints with us about a particular scam, we’re going to look on the network for evidence of fraud. [And] we will talk with our colleagues at state attorneys general’s offices and our colleagues at the Federal Trade Commission.”

This story, originally published Oct. 23, 2023, was updated with the latest FCC actions.

Contributing: Associated Press

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