House Democrats are proposing comprehensive measures to combat the surge in fraudulent robocalls, particularly those fueled by artificial intelligence (AI)

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In response to incidents like the recent deepfake impersonating President Joe Biden, which targeted New Hampshire voters, and instances where fraudsters replicated a loved one’s voice to deceive victims, lawmakers are introducing new legislation to overhaul the nation’s robocall regulations.

According to estimates by YouMail, a robocall blocking service, the peak number of robocalls in the US was approximately 58.5 billion in 2019, decreasing to around 55 billion last year.

The proposed bill seeks to broaden the definition of a robocall, now encompassing any call or text message featuring artificially generated or prerecorded messages. In a summary of the legislation reviewed by CNN, it is revealed that potential fines for US robocall rule violations involving AI impersonation would be doubled. Additionally, the use of AI in all robocalls, even those authorized by individuals for purposes such as banking or medical appointments, would need to be disclosed under the proposed law.

The legislation, known as the Do Not Disturb Act and spearheaded by Rep. Frank Pallone, a leading Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, applies equally to both political and non-political robocalls. Its objective is to address perceived loopholes in current laws that allow robocallers to act without accountability.

Following a 2021 Supreme Court decision narrowing the definition of a robocall, the legislation aims to close gaps that have been exploited by robocallers. The Supreme Court ruling provided a strict interpretation of the language used to describe an autodialer in earlier legislation.

This initiative coincides with a broader crackdown on robocalls by various states and regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2022, the FCC took action to dismantle one of the largest auto warranty scam call operations in history.

Industry experts note that advances in technology mandated by previous legislation, specifically the TRACED Act co-authored by Pallone in 2019, have equipped the government to better identify the source of illegal robocalls. However, as officials gain ground in countering unwanted robocalls, scammers are increasingly turning to new technologies like artificial intelligence.

The proposed legislation also aims to empower the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission with additional tools to pursue scammers and impose more stringent penalties, including fines. It includes provisions to compel phone providers to offer free robocall-blocking services to consumers and mandates the FCC to maintain a public list of the top 100 illegal robocall campaigns.

Rep. Pallone stated, “Today I’m introducing legislation that brings anti-robocall protections into the 21st century and ensures illegal robocallers and scam artists can’t exploit new loopholes even as technology continues to evolve.” Other Democratic co-sponsors of the legislation include Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Rep. Doris Matsui of California, Rep. Darren Soto of Florida, and Rep. Eric Sorensen of Illinois.

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