League of Women Voters suing over AI robocalls sent in NH

FILE - Paul Carpenter describes AI software during an interview in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Carpenter says he was hired in January to use AI software to imitate President Joe Biden's voice to convince New Hampshire Democrat voters not to vote in the state's presidential primary. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

FILE - Paul Carpenter describes AI software during an interview in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Carpenter says he was hired in January to use AI software to imitate President Joe Biden's voice to convince New Hampshire Democrat voters not to vote in the state's presidential primary. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton) Matthew Hinton

FILE - Paul Carpenter poses for a photo during an interview in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Carpenter says he was hired in January to use AI software to imitate President Joe Biden's voice to convince New Hampshire Democrat voters not to vote in the state's presidential primary. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

FILE - Paul Carpenter poses for a photo during an interview in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. Carpenter says he was hired in January to use AI software to imitate President Joe Biden's voice to convince New Hampshire Democrat voters not to vote in the state's presidential primary. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File) Matthew Hinton

By HOLLY RAMER

Associated Press

Published: 03-14-2024 3:41 PM

CONCORD, N.H. — The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to prevent those who sent robocalls mimicking President Joe Biden’ s voice to New Hampshire voters from using artificial intelligence for future deceptions.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Hampshire against Steve Kramer, the political consultant behind the call, and two Texas companies authorities believe were involved in transmitting it: Lingo Telecom and Life Corporation. Citing violations of both state law and federal law, it asks a judge to impose fines and bar the defendants from producing and distributing AI-generated robocalls without permission from those being impersonated.

At issue is a message sent to thousands of New Hampshire voters on Jan. 21 featured a voice similar to Biden’s falsely suggesting that voting in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary two days later would preclude them from casting ballots in November. Kramer, who paid a magician and self-described “digital nomad” who does technology consulting $150 to create the recording, has said he orchestrated the call to publicize the potential dangers of artificial intelligence and spur action from lawmakers.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said Thursday they will challenge that “self-serving” explanation.

“Regardless of the motivation, the intent here was to suppress the vote and to threaten and coerce voters into not voting out of fear that they might lose their right to vote. That’s why we’re bringing this case,” said Mark Herring, a former attorney general in Virginia.

A spokesperson for Kramer declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying his attorneys had not yet received it. Lingo Telecom and Life Corporation did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

Sophisticated generative AI tools, such as voice-cloning software and image generators, already are in use in elections in the U.S. and around the world, leading to concerns about the rapid spread of misinformation.

Bipartisan efforts in Congress have sought to regulate AI in political campaigns, but no federal legislation has passed.

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Since the New Hampshire robocalls, however, the FCC has outlawed robocalls that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence, and major tech companies have signed a pact to adopt precautions voluntarily to prevent AI tools from being used to disrupt elections.

The potential for such disruption means the League of Women Voters and other civic organizations must change course, said Courtney Hostetler of Free Speech for People, which is serving as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“The League of Women Voters is now shifting their scant resources to deal with this new threat, and it comes at the cost of all the other people they would otherwise be encouraging to vote, educating, helping them register, helping them learn their rights,” she said.

Celina Stewart, chief counsel at the League of Women Voters, was in New Hampshire for the primary and said the calls created unnecessary chaos.

“Should the league or should election workers who already work often 12- to 16-hour shifts to implement the election have the burden of overcoming the obstacle of a robo call?” she said. “The answer to that has to be a hard no.”