Speech & Audio

Man behind deepfake Biden robocall indicted, faces $6M fine • The Register

Man behind deepfake Biden robocall indicted, faces M fine • The Register

The political consultant who admitted paying $150 to create a deepfake anti-Biden robocall has been indicted on charges of felony voter suppression and misdemeanor impersonation of a candidate.

Steven Kramer, 54, of New Orleans, also faces a $6 million fine from the FCC for the bogus call, which used AI-generated voice cloning technology to impersonate President Joe Biden and caller ID spoofing to hide the source.

Kramer previously said he wrote the script for the call, which urged people not to vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, paid a magician to use some form of artificial intelligence to record that script using the US president’s cloned voice, and hired a telemarketing firm to play the recording to more than 5,000 voters over the phone. 

The call was purported to have come from the treasurer of a political committee, and basically aimed to depress voter turnout in the aforementioned primary. It’s understood Kramer wanted Biden supporters to stay home, giving House Rep Dean Phillips (D-MN) a better chance at being selected to challenge Joe Biden for the New Hampshire Democratic nomination.

“This is a way for me to make a difference, and I have,” an unapologetic Kramer told NBC News. “For $500, I got about $5 million worth of action, whether that be media attention or regulatory action.”

That 500 bucks will be for the whole caper, we understand; the magic man was given $150 to do the deepfake part.

In late January, both the New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella and the FCC opened investigations into reports of voters receiving spoofed robocalls. 

On Thursday, the AG announced Kramer has been charged with 13 felony counts of voter suppression and 13 misdemeanor counts of impersonation of a candidate, spread across four counties based on the residence of 13 New Hampshire residents who received the Biden robocalls.

“I hope that our respective enforcement actions send a strong deterrent signal to anyone who might consider interfering with elections, whether through the use of artificial intelligence or otherwise,” Formella said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, the FCC proposed fining Kramer $6 million for election misinformation and unlawful call spoofing.

To spread the fake messages, Kramer hired Voice Broadcasting, which used the services of Life Corporation to transmit calls through voice service provider Lingo Telecom, the US watchdog said. 

“Lingo Telecom transmitted these calls, incorrectly labeling them with the highest level of caller ID attestation, making it less likely that other providers could detect the calls as potentially spoofed,” according to the FCC, which also proposed a $2 million penalty against Lingo.

If finalized, this will be the first-ever enforcement action related to spoofed, deepfake robocalls in the US. ®

Man behind deepfake Biden robocall indicted, faces $6M fine • The Register

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