$6M Fine, Criminal Charges for AI-Generated Biden Robocalls

Concord, N.H. — A political consultant has to face a $6 million fine and more than two dozen criminal charges. He was sending messages that were mimicking President Joe Biden’s voice to voters ahead of New Hampshire’s presidential primary.

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a fine for Steven Kramer. The FCC said it is the first such action involving generative AI technology. The company accused of transmitting the calls, Lingo Telecom, is facing a $2 million fine. The FCC said that in both cases, parties could settle or could negotiate further.

Kramer said that he organized a message that was sent to thousands of voters two days before on Jan. 23. The message played an AI-generated voice similar to the Democratic president’s that used his phrase “What a bunch of malarkey” and falsely suggested that voting in the primary would preclude voters from casting ballots in November.

Kramer is being charged with 13 felonies alleging that he violated a New Hampshire law against trying to deter someone from voting by using misleading information. He is also facing 13 misdemeanor charges accusing him of falsely representing himself as a candidate by his own conduct or that of another person. The charges were filed in four counties but, as is often the case with serious allegations, will be prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office.

Neither Lingo Telecom nor Kramer responded to requests for comment Thursday. Kramer told The Associated Press earlier that he wasn’t trying to influence the outcome of the election but rather wanted to about the possible dangers about artificial intelligence when he paid $150 to create the recording.

“Maybe I’m a villain today, but I think in the end we get a better country and better democracy because of what I’ve done, deliberately,” Kramer said in February.

Lingo Telecom told the AP in February that it was “committed to upholding the highest standards of customer care in compliance with all its regulatory obligations.” The company said at the time that it acted quickly to assist in the investigation once it was notified about the scam calls.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that regulators are committed to helping states go after perpetrators. In a statement, she called the robocalls “unnerving.”

“Because when a caller sounds like a politician you know, a celebrity you like, or a family member who is familiar, any one of us could be tricked into believing something that is not true with calls using AI technology,” she said in a statement. “It is exactly how the bad actors behind these junk calls with manipulated voices want you to react.”

Shortly after New Hampshire’s primary, the agency that contain voices generated by artificial intelligence.

In an interview days after he was publicly identified as the source of the calls, Kramer said he disagreed that his robocall suppressed voter turnout, noting that Biden by a wide margin as a write-in candidate. While he did some ballot access work for another former Democratic presidential hopeful, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Kramer said he acted alone.


Swenson reported from New York.