Shallow Fake

A while back I wrote about how artificial intelligence was used to fabricate Johnny Cash signing ‘I’m a Barbie Girl.’ It sounded authentic, making it creepy and unsettling. Like most technology, AI can be used to create amazing things. Unfortunately, some people use it for nefarious purposes.

In addition to the Man in Black, AI has recently been used to impersonate the man in the Oval Office.

Last month, AI was used to generate a fake version of President Joe Biden’s voice urging people not to vote in New Hampshire’s primary election. Investigators believe that robocalls were used to send the message to up to 25,000 voters in the state.

“Voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again,” the fake Biden says. “Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.” The call even featured the voice saying, “What a bunch of malarkey,” one of the President’s favorite catch-phrases.

The call directs people to contact Kathy Sullivan, former state Democratic Party chair, if they want to stop getting the calls. “This is someone who is trying to mislead people into thinking that it was Joe Biden calling. I mean that’s identity theft,” said Sullivan.

The White House suspects that the calls were intended to deter Biden supporters from voting for one of Donald Trump’s opponents for the Republican nomination. A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, however, denied any connection to the calls, saying, “Not us. We have nothing to do with it.”

New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan was expecting record-setting numbers of Republican voters to show up at the polls for the primary. Because Democrats were not on the ballot, Scanlan did not believe there would be a great turnout of voters supporting the other side of the aisle. He fears this would be magnified by the fake call, however.

“That is a growing concern among secretaries of state around the country related to elections generally, not just this one,” Scanlan said. “The evolution of artificial intelligence being able to create deep fakes that could give incorrect or misleading messages.”

The New Hampshire Election Law Unit of Attorney General John Formella’s office asked people who got the robocall to disregard it and report it to his office. Formella said the AI-generated recording made to sound like the president has been linked to two Texas companies, and his office has initiated a criminal investigation.

As a result of the incident, earlier this month the Federal Communications Commission declared the use of voice-cloning technology in robocalls to be illegal. The ruling takes effect immediately, which could be impactful in a presidential election year that has already seen a plethora of AI-generated images, video and audio propagated online, fueling an already contentious campaign cycle.

Criminals have used AI technology to not only impersonate political candidates, but also celebrities and even the loved ones of people they are looking to exploit. “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities and misinform votes,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated. “State attorneys general will now have new tools to crack down on these scams and ensure the public is protected from fraud and misinformation.”

The New Hampshire calls prompted two U.S. Senators – Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Maine Republican Susan Collins – to recently encourage the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to take steps to combat such misinformation.

As for what will happen with the election this year – it’s anyone’s call.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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