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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Political consultant facing legal trouble over Joe Biden deepfake robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission is considering slapping longtime Democratic operator Steve Kramer and Lingo Telecom with a multi-million fine over a February robocall campaign that used an AI-generated deepfake of President Joe Biden’s voice.

The news comes after after Kramer admitted to NBC News that he was behind the campaign that urged voters to boycott the New Hampshire primary election, and instead "save your vote for the November election."

Kramer had been working with Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips’ campaign at the time, but there is no evidence linking Phillips’ campaign to this scheme.

According to the FCC proposal, Steve Kramer faces a $6 million fine, while Lingo Telecom could be fined $2 million for facilitating the calls.

“We will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that bad actors cannot use U.S. telecommunications networks to facilitate the misuse of generative AI technology to interfere with elections, defraud consumers, or compromise sensitive data,” Loyaan Egal, chief of the enforcement bureau and chair of the FCC’s Privacy and Data Protection Task Force, said in a statement.

To create the misleading message, Kramer paid a New Orleans magician $150 to generate the audio. When questioned, the magician informed reporters that he was unaware of Kramer's plans for the recording. In his defense, Kramer claims he wanted to highlight the potential misuse of AI in election processes.

On top of the proposed action by the FCC, Kramer is also facing criminal penalties in New Hampshire, where grand juries in four counties indicted him on 26 counts, including impersonating a candidate and voter suppression. If convicted, Kramer could face substantial criminal penalties.

This case underscores the growing concerns about AI use in elections and the measures being taken to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process. As the 2024 election cycle progresses, regulators and lawmakers are likely to keep a close watch on the use of technology in political campaigns.


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