Moving at rapid speed, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just announced its unanimous adoption of a new Declaratory Ruling finding that voice calls using artificial intelligence (AI)-generated voices fall under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The ruling takes effect immediately and gives state attorneys general powerful new tools to go after voice cloning scams. Under FCC rules, telemarketers that use robocalls subject to the TCPA are required to obtain prior express written consent from the consumer unless an exemption applies. The TCPA has always prohibited the use of both prerecorded and artificial voices but advances in AI-generated voices have prompted the FCC to specifically address their use.

In recent years, scammers and other parties have begun using AI to create fake and even “cloned” artificial voices, including those of celebrities, politicians, and even a call recipient’s family member. In this election season, there has been increasing concern about the use of voice clones to engage in voter suppression schemes.

Concerned about the potential malevolent uses of these AI-generated voice calls, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in November on the topic of “Implications of Artificial Intelligence Technologies on Protecting Consumers from Unwanted Robocalls and Robotexts.” In the NOI, the FCC asked questions regarding the use of “AI-influenced” technologies in robocalling. A coalition of 26 state attorneys general, as well as a telecommunication carrier trade group, strongly urged the FCC to take action to give the attorneys general clear authority to act against AI-generated robocall violators.

The FCC now has made clear that the use of voice cloning in telephone calls and texts falls within the FCC’s statutory authority under the TCPA. A major intent of the ruling is to communicate that the TCPA “does not allow for any carve-out of technologies that purport to provide the equivalent of a live agent, thus preventing unscrupulous businesses from attempting to exploit any perceived ambiguity in our TCPA rules.”

As FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel explained, “with this Declaratory Ruling, we will have another tool to go after voice cloning scams and get this junk off the line.”

If you’d like to discuss the FCC’s TCPA rules, please get in touch with Laura Stefani or any other Venable telecommunications professional.