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Can Robocalls Mislead Voters in the U.S.?

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
News
28th January 2024
Can Robocalls Mislead Voters in the U.S.?
Fears of fraudulent calls influencing voters' voices in America (Getty)

Voters in New Hampshire in the U.S. were surprised to receive recorded calls in the voice of current President, Joe Biden, saying: “Your votes are important for the Democratic party. Do not go and vote next Tuesday (in the primary), save your energy for the November election at the end of 2024 (general election)."

The audio recording attributed to Joe Biden on CNN
The audio recording attributed to Joe Biden on CNN

After Democratic voters shared the recorded calls, the message reached Cathy Sullivan, the head of a political committee affiliated with the Democratic party in New Hampshire this year. Sullivan also led a campaign to encourage Democratic voters to add the name of current President, Joe Biden, to the list of candidates. Some of her acquaintances asked her questions about why they received the message from her personal phone.

These messages are considered a widespread practice in automatic scam calls which manipulate the caller ID to display a fake number and hide the identity of the real caller.

They are known as “robocalls," which are prerecorded robotic calls prepared with advanced software, targeting several fields such as health insurance companies and charities.

According to a 2022 statistic by the U.S. National Consumer Law Center, over 33 million automatic calls reach American citizens daily, amounting to 50 billion calls a year.

The 2022 statistical report from the U.S. National Consumer Law Center
The 2022 statistical report from the U.S. National Consumer Law Center

How AI Is Threatening the Integrity of Elections?

According to the Associated Press, it is not clear who is behind the calls: “despite the fact that they falsely show they were from the personal mobile number of Cathy Sullivan, the former leader of the Democratic party in the state and who helps direct the Granite for America company, which is a major political committee supporting the Biden campaign."

“I notified law enforcement authorities and issued a complaint to the Attorney General after many voters in the state reported receiving the call Sunday night," Sullivan said.

In a statement, she added, “This call is attached to my personal phone number without my permission. It is a clear interference in elections, and it is a clear attempt to harass me and other voters in New Hampshire."

The Attorney General said last Monday that he is investigating reports on an automatic call which apparently used A.I. to imitate the voice of Joe Biden and discourage voters in the state from heading to polling stations during the Tuesday primary."

Attorney General John Formella noted that the recorded message, which was sent to several voters on Sunday, appeared to be an illegal attempt to disrupt and suppress the vote. He urged voters to "ignore the entire contents of this message."

The White House also said that President Joe Biden had nothing to do with the message and that the incident highlights the challenges they will face in the wake of next November’s elections. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday, January 22, that President Biden "previously warned of the serious consequences of the use of fake images, deep fakes, and misleading information, and that the development of artificial intelligence technology will make matters worse."

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement that the campaign is “actively discussing additional actions that should be taken immediately.”

“Spreading misinformation to suppress the vote and intentionally undermine free and fair elections will not continue, and the fight against any attempt to undermine our democracy will remain a top priority for this campaign,” she added.

Fears of Negative AI Impact on the 2024 Elections

It is expected that four billion people will take part in general elections around the world this year. The results will impact the way the world is managed for the next decades. At the same time, the development of false narratives and conspiracy theories has become a challenge and threat to elections.

The report by Stanford and the University of Chicago on the risks of artificial intelligence in the U.S. election of 2024
The report by Stanford and the University of Chicago on the risks of artificial intelligence in the U.S. election of 2024

There are increasing fears over the upcoming electoral campaigns due to the reduction in social media companies’ support for protection programs. A report published by the Free Press Foundation stated that the role of major tech companies in supporting protection programs and means has declined, fueling fraudulent operations and providing an opportunity for misleading information to spread on a larger scale, thereby affecting election integrity.

The Free Press Foundation report on the declining support of major tech companies for protection programs
The Free Press Foundation report on the declining support of major tech companies for protection programs

According to the same report, the largest social media companies have deprioritized content moderation and other means of protecting user trust and safety, including rolling back platform policies that reduced the presence of hate, harassment, and lies on their networks. These companies have also laid off critical employees and teams tasked with maintaining the integrity of the platform.

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