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AI Robocalls & Telemarketing: TCPA Violation?

The Lyon Firm is investigating TCPA violations related to AI-generated robocalls and telemarketing campaigns. Federal authorities are weighing the legality of certain AI robocall schemes, including political campaign chatbots.

There are often more questions then answers when trying to determine how AI fits in with current privacy statutes. Opponents of artificial intelligence always question the premature release of new applications and software before anyone knows the legal implications or realistic viability. Such is the argument when addressing a new AI tool: political campaign robocalling.

Meet Ashley, an AI campaign chatbot recently released by Pennsylvania  democrats. Ashley is a high-powered campaign volunteer who is capable of having an infinite number of customized conversations at the same time. Ashley can even analyze a voter’s profile to tailor a conversation around their primary concerns.

Ashley is a machine that has been programmed to create original responses to questions. This is clearly a new, ultra-modern era in the political world, but that might be a little short-sighted. The people that built this software had a specific political campaign in mind, however, this idea can be quickly scaled into a huge number of other applications, far beyond politics. The technology used is similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and is  good example of how far generative AI has come in a short period of time.

It is intriguing in the very least. But is this all ethical and legal?

It is definitely risky at this point in time. Any organization that releases a tool like this is responsible for how the machine behaves. Critics of new generative AI continually note that these machines are not infallible. The answers they provide are not always accurate, and in fact, they can be misleading.

So what happens when Ashley or a similar chatbot is spreading misinformation? What happens when there is an Ashley impersonator–a deepfake posing as one political party and spreads disinformation? It is logical to think there will eventually be some legal blowback.

There are many doubts, but an equal amount of enthusiasm for this technology. It is without question an innovative new tool for starting conversations on a large scale. It is also not a theoretical concept; this AI is being used right now. Ashley has been making phone calls. The cat is out of the bag. Is it time to embrace it then?

There will always be critics of change, and those dubious of technological advances. It is natural to fear the unknown. But OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has even stated that he is “nervous” about generative AI’s ability to compromise an election’s integrity with inaccuracies. The problem is this kind of technology learns from a giant amount of internet data, some of which is not guaranteed to be true.

There is another question as well: Should consumers be told that a caller is a robot or human? That is another concern that some federal regulators are grappling with.

Are AI Robocalls Legal?

That has not been concluded. There could some gray areas. At the moment, Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) regulations ban telemarketers from making robocalls to individuals on the Do Not Call Registry, but that does not apply to political calls. The Federal Communications Commission  (FCC) prohibits campaign-related auto-dialed or prerecorded voice calls without prior consent. The FCC has begun an inquiry into how AI technology impacts illegal and unwanted robocalls.

The FCC has released the following statement on their site:  “On November 15, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks comment to better understand the impact of emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as part of the FCC’s efforts to protect consumers from unwanted and illegal telephone calls and text messages.”

Unwanted calls are the top FCC consumer complaint, and now regulators have a new spin on telemarketing to contend with. Consumer protection and personal privacy laws have always struggled to keep up with new, invasive marketing schemes. It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to the changes in AI-generated telemarketing tools.

The consumer protection lawyers at the Lyon Firm are committed to holding organizations accountable for any violation of your privacy. Despite past legal judgments and settlements, companies still engage in illegal telemarketing schemes that clearly violate TCPA laws.

Contact us to discuss legal action when your are harassed by AI robocalls and automated text messages. You can file a class action claim and potentially recover compensation.