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FCC Bans AI-Generated Voices in Robocall Regulations

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently passed a ruling that makes the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal. This decision was made in response to concerns that such technology can be exploited to deceive and misinform people, particularly voters.

The new ruling classifies AI-generated voices in robocalls as “artificial” and thus enforceable by the same standards as other forms of robocalls. This means that companies using AI voices in their calls can be fined by the FCC, and their calls can be blocked. The ruling also allows call recipients to file lawsuits and provides state attorneys general with new tools to enforce the regulation.

The FCC’s decision targets robocalls made with AI voice-cloning tools under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law that restricts junk calls using artificial and prerecorded voice messages. The FCC has previously used this law to clamp down on robocallers interfering in elections and other areas, including imposing fines on those who violate the law.

The FCC’s Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, stated that “bad actors” have been using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to deceive voters, impersonate celebrities, and extort vulnerable family members. The decision to ban AI voices in robocalls comes as part of a broader effort by the FCC to combat the misuse of AI technology in communication.

The ruling was made effective immediately, sending a clear message to those exploiting the technology for malicious purposes. The FCC began considering making robocalls with AI-generated voices illegal after seeking public comment on the issue in November of the previous year.

What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 is a federal law that was enacted to address the growing issue of unwanted telemarketing calls and communications. It places restrictions on telemarketing calls, the use of automatic telephone dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and facsimiles. The TCPA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush and is codified as 47 U.S.C. § 227, amending the Communications Act of 1934.

Key provisions of the TCPA include:

  • Restrictions on Telemarketing Calls: The TCPA limits the circumstances under which telemarketing calls can be made to consumers. It requires telemarketers to maintain a “do not call” list and honor the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems: The use of autodialers to call or send messages to cell phones is restricted unless the caller has obtained prior express consent from the recipient
  • Artificial or Prerecorded Voice Messages: The TCPA limits the use of artificial or prerecorded voice messages in calls to residential phone lines without prior express consent
  • SMS Text Messages and Facsimiles: Similar restrictions apply to sending unsolicited text messages and faxes
  • Consumer Rights: Consumers have the right to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and to sue violators in court. The TCPA allows for significant penalties for violations, including statutory damages

The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) play key roles in implementing and enforcing the TCPA. Over the years, the FCC has adopted additional rules to strengthen the TCPA, including the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003 in partnership with the FTC. The TCPA has been amended and clarified through subsequent rulemaking and court decisions, reflecting the evolving nature of telecommunications and marketing practices.

The TCPA’s primary goal is to protect consumers from invasive telemarketing practices by establishing clear rules for consent and providing mechanisms for enforcement and redress.

What are the penalties for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) imposes significant penalties for violations. The fines for a TCPA violation can range between $500 and $1,500 per incident, depending on the nature and willfulness of the violation. For example, if a company called 100 people without permission, that could potentially result in fines between $50,000 and $150,000.

In addition to these penalties, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can impose fines of up to $10,000 per unauthorized call. The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act of 2019 expanded the authority of the FCC to impose these civil penalties.

The TCPA also allows consumers to file lawsuits against violators. In some cases, these lawsuits have resulted in substantial penalties. For instance, Capital One was involved in a class action lawsuit in 2014 that resulted in $75.5 million in penalties for TCPA violations. In another case, the FCC issued a record-breaking 300 million fine for a robocall scheme that involved TCPA violations.

It’s important to note that these penalties can be applied per violation, meaning each individual call or message that violates the TCPA can result in a separate fine. This can lead to substantial cumulative penalties for businesses that engage in widespread or ongoing violations of the TCPA.

How Resemble Detect enforces the Law

In light of the recent FCC ruling that makes AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal, Resemble AI’s technology, Resemble Detect, becomes increasingly relevant. Resemble Detect is a tool designed to identify and combat the misuse of AI-generated voices, particularly in the context of deepfakes and fraudulent audio content.

Resemble Detect: A Shield Against AI Voice Misuse

Resemble AI has developed Resemble Detect, a deep neural network-based tool that scrutinizes audio data with high precision. It can detect signs of manipulation in speech patterns, such as irregular cadences and emphases, which are common in AI-altered voices. By comparing audio clips against a vast repository of authentic human voices, Resemble Detect can identify deepfakes and counterfeit voices with an accuracy rate of over 98%.

The Role of Resemble Detect Post-FCC Ruling

With the FCC’s new ruling, the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls is now classified as “artificial,” making them subject to the same restrictions and penalties as other forms of robocalls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This decision aims to prevent the deceptive use of AI voices that could misinform voters, impersonate individuals, or facilitate extortion.

Resemble Detect offers a solution to help enforce this ruling by providing a means to verify the authenticity of audio content. It can serve as a line of defense for businesses and individuals who wish to ensure that the voices they are hearing in calls are genuine and not AI-generated deepfakes intended to deceive.

Commitment to Ethical AI

Resemble AI has expressed a commitment to ethical AI practices, as evidenced by its adherence to the Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Responsible Use of AI and its efforts to provide transparency in the use of AI voices.

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