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The FCC Approves an NOI to Dive Deeper into AI and its Effects on Robocalls and Robotexts
Wednesday, November 15, 2023

AI is on the tip of everyone’s tongue it seems these days. The Dame brought you a recap of President Biden’s orders addressing AI at the beginning of the month. This morning at the FCC’s open meeting they were presented with a request for a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to gather additional information about the benefits and harms of artificial intelligence and its use alongside “robocall and robotext”. The following five areas of interest are as follows:

  • First, the NOI seeks, on whether and if so how the commission should define AI technologies for purposes of the inquiry this includes particular uses of AI technologies that are relevant to the commission’s statutory response abilities under the TCPA, which protects consumers from nonemergency calls and texts using an autodialer or containing an artificial or prerecorded voice.
  • Second, the NOI seeks comment on how technologies may impact consumers who receive robocalls and robotexts including any potential benefits and risks that the emerging technologies may create. Specifically, the NOI seeks information on how these technologies may alter the functioning of the existing regulatory framework so that the commission may formulate policies that benefit consumers by ensuring they continue to receive privacy protections under the TCPA.
  • Third, the NOI seeks comment on whether it is necessary or possible to determine at this point whether future types of AI technologies may fall within the TCPA’s existing prohibitions on autodial calls or texts and artificial or prerecorded voice messages.
  • Fourth, NOI seeks comment on whether the commission should consider ways to verify the authenticity and legitimately generate AI voice or text content from trusted sources such as through the use of watermarks, certificates, labels, signatures, or other forms of labels when callers rely on AI technology to generate content. This may include, for example, emulating a human voice on a robocall or creating content in a text message.
  • Lastly, seeks comment on what next steps the commission should consider to further the inquiry.

While all the commissioners voted to approve the NOI they did share a few insightful comments. Commissioner Carr stated “ If AI can combat illegal robocalls, I’m all for it” but he also expressed that he does “…worry that the path we are heading down is going to be overly prescriptive” and suggests “…Let’s put some common-sense guardrails in place, but let’s not be so prescriptive and so heavy-handed on the front end that we end up benefiting large incumbents in the space because they can deal with the regulatory frameworks and stifling the smaller innovation to come.”

Commissioner Starks shared “I, for one, believe this intersectionality is clinical because the future of AI remains uncertain, one thing is clear — it has the potential to impact if not transform every aspect of American life, and because of that potential, each part of our government bears responsibility to better understand the risks, opportunities within its mandate, while being mindful of the limits of its expertise, experience, and authority. In this era of rapid technological change, we must collaborate, lean into our expertise across agencies to best serve our citizens and consumers.” Commissioner Starks seemed to be particularly focused on AI’s ability to facilitate bad actors in schemes like voice cloning and how the FCC can implement safeguards against this type of behavior.

“AI technologies can bring new challenges and opportunities. responsible and ethical implementation of AI technologies is crucial to strike a balance, ensuring that the benefits of AI are harnessed to protect consumers from harm rather than amplifying the risks in increasing the digital landscape” Commissioner Gomez shared.

Finally, the topic around the AI NOI wrapped up with Chairwoman Rosenworcel commenting “… I think we make a mistake if we only focus on the potential for harm. We needed to equally focus on how artificial intelligence can radically improve the tools we have today to block unwanted robocalls and robotexts. We are talking about technology that can see patterns in our network traffic, unlike anything we have today. They can lead to the development of analytic tools that are exponentially better at finding fraud before it reaches us at home. Used at scale, we cannot only stop this junk, we can use it to increase trust in our networks. We are asking how artificial intelligence is being used right now to recognize patterns in network traffic and how it can be used in the future. We know the risks this technology involves but we also want to harness the benefits.”

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