The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has banned automated calls that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence. This decision should emphasize that the use of technology to mislead voters is unacceptable, writes PBS NewsHour.

The new ruling expands the powers of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which restricts unsolicited calls using artificial and pre-recorded voice messages. Now, robocalls using AI-generated voices are also included in the list of such messages.

The decision was made against the backdrop of events in New Hampshire, where an investigation continues into AI-generated automated calls that imitated the voice of President Joe Biden, who allegedly persuaded people not to vote in the country’s first primary.

The new regulation is effective immediately and authorizes the FCC to fine companies that use AI-generated voices in their calls or block service providers that transmit them. The ruling also opens the door for recipients of unwanted calls to file lawsuits and gives state attorneys general a new mechanism to crack down on violators.

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

According to the Consumer Protection Law, telemarketers cannot use automatic dialers or artificial or pre-recorded voice messages to call mobile phones, nor can they make such calls to landlines without the prior written consent of the call recipient. The new ruling categorizes voices generated by artificial intelligence in automated calls as “artificial” and therefore subject to the same standards, according to the FCC.

Those who violate the law can face steep fines of up to $23,000 per call. The law also gives call recipients the right to sue and potentially recover up to $1,500 for each unwanted call.

The agency has previously used consumer protection law to crack down on robocalls that interfere with elections, including a $5 million fine on two conservative scammers who falsely warned people in predominantly black neighborhoods that voting by mail could put them at risk of arrest, debt collection, or forced vaccinations.