FCC Issues Cease & Desist to Company Behind Deepfake Biden Primary Election Phone Calls
The FCC and New Hampshire’s Department of Justice have revealed the company behind robocalls impersonating President Joe Biden with generative AI in a cease and desist order. The Texas-based Life Corporation targeted New Hampshire voters earlier this year with the calls in an attempt to suppress turnout in the state’s primary election, leveraging the synthetic voice creation platform ElevenLabs.
The robocalls featured a voice that sounded like Biden telling voters to “save your vote for the November election” and not participate in the primary, which he dismissed as “a bunch of malarkey.” This immediately raised red flags for voter suppression. The use of ElevenLabs’ technology for the deepfake calls was rapidly uncovered by researchers at Pindrop Security. An investigation traced the calls back to a telecom provider, Lingo, which transmitted them on behalf of Life Corporation. The company has a history of illegal robocalling activities going back to 2003, according to the FCC.
“Consumers deserve to know that the person on the other end of the line is exactly who they claim to be. That’s why we’re working closely with State Attorneys General across the country to combat the use of voice cloning technology in robocalls being used to misinform voters and target unwitting victims of fraud,” FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “I want to thank all of our partners for their cooperation in this investigation, and I look forward to our ongoing efforts to crack down on these robocallers.”
Deepfake technology in politics has already prompted OpenAI, Google, and other developers to come up with strategies to limit the misuse of LLMs. Most have agreed to a set of safety and responsibility principles. OpenAI even banned an indirectly officially approved custom GPT of Democratic presidential nominee Dean Phillips.
While the calls prompted cease and desist orders from New Hampshire authorities and the FCC, officials said this is just the beginning, with document preservation notices and subpoenas issued to Life Corporation and other potential entities involved. Legal repercussions for the voter suppression attempt are still developing. Charges could potentially be filed depending on the ongoing investigation. The incident highlights concerns about the misuse of AI-generated content like deepfakes for unethical purposes. As deepfake technology advances, lawmakers and regulators continue grappling with how to prevent harm while protecting free speech.
“Ensuring public confidence in the electoral process is vital,” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said. “AI-generated recordings used to deceive voters have the potential to have devastating effects on the democratic election process. All voters should be on the lookout for suspicious messages and misinformation and report it as soon as they see it. The FCC’s partnership and fast action in this matter sends a clear message that law enforcement and regulatory agencies are staying vigilant and are working closely together to monitor and investigate any signs of AI being used maliciously to threaten our democratic process.”