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Joe Biden says he wants to ban AI voice impersonations

A hot potato: Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night covered several tech-related subjects, including AI voice cloning. The President called for a “ban on AI voice impersonation,” which isn’t too surprising given that someone used his voice to try to influence an election earlier this year.

“Here at home, I have signed over 400 bipartisan bills. There’s more to pass my unity agenda,” President Biden said during the State of the Union. He then named some of the proposals he aims to address should he be voted in for a second term in office: “Strengthen penalties on fentanyl trafficking, pass bipartisan privacy legislation to protect our children online, harness the promise of AI to protect us from peril, ban AI voice impersonation, and more.”

Biden has a good reason to call for a ban on AI voice cloning. In January, a 39-second robocall went out to voters in New Hampshire telling them not to vote in the Democratic primary election, but to “save their votes” for the November presidential election. The voice handing out this advice sounded almost exactly like Joe Biden. Voice-fraud detection company Pindrop later analyzed the call, concluding that it was created using a text-to-speech engine made by ElevenLabs, which the company confirmed.

The incident led to the FCC making the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal under the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The agency cited concerns that technology was being used to confuse and deceive consumers by imitating the voices of “celebrities, political candidates, and close family members.”

The extent of Biden’s proposed ban is unclear. It could be limited to certain areas, such as imitating politicians, but the President does sound like he is talking about a blanket ban on AI voice impersonations, which would have far-reaching effects.

Beyond politics, the use of AI to recreate actors’ voices and likenesses was one of the issues behind the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike. It ended after an agreement that ensured actors give consent and are fairly compensated when their AI replications are used, though not everyone was happy with the deal.

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