New Hampshire officials say they have found the source of an illegal voter suppression campaign that used an AI-generated imitation of Joe Biden's voice.
In a news release on Monday, state attorney general John Formella named two Texas companies as the entities responsible for the fake calls.
He ordered Life Corporation, the alleged creator of the messages, and Lingo Telecom, the alleged service provider, to immediately cease all violations of New Hampshire election law and cooperate with an investigation.
Simultaneously, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threatened to cut Lingo off from the nation's telecoms network unless it can show that it has proper safeguards against illegal activity on its service.
"AI- generated recordings used to deceive voters have the potential to have devastating effects on the democratic election process," said Mr Formella, a Republican who was appointed to his post in 2021.
"All voters should be on the lookout for suspicious messages and misinformation and report it as soon as they see it."
Loyaan Egal, chief of the FCC's enforcement bureau, added that the use of AI to deceive voters was "a rapidly growing problem" and that his office would use "every tool available" to keep it off US networks.
In response to questions from The Independent, a spokesperson for Lingo said it had suspended Life Corporation’s account on the same day that it was contacted by US authorities, and that it would comply with federal and state investigations.
“Upon receiving an inquiry on this matter, Lingo acted immediately by conducting an investigation into the calls at issue,” the spokesperson said.
“Lingo had no involvement whatsoever in the production of the call content and remains committed to upholding the highest standards of customer care in compliance with all its regulatory obligations.”
Life Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.
The robocalls, first reported by NBC News, targeted voters in New Hampshire's presidential primary with an apparent message from Joe Biden, urging them not to bother taking part.
Calling the proceedings "a bunch of malarkey", and allegedly using a spoofed caller ID, the fake president urged recipients to "save your vote for the November election" – a nonsensical concept, given that there is no limit to how many elections each American can vote in.
According to the FCC, Lingo was already under federal investigation for carrying 61 suspected illegal calls originating overseas since 2021, and has operated under 11 other names in the past.
The agency's enforcement letter accuses it of adding a seal of approval to Life Corporation's robocalls indicating that it had vetted Life's right to use the number, despite the fact that the number was spoofed.
Meanwhile, Life Corporation was reprimanded by the agency in 2003 for delivering "apparently illegal" unsolicited robocalls to a number of homeowners.
Life Corp's website gives no details about its leadership and is vague in the extreme about its services, claiming to offer "creative" solutions to do with "data processing, service monitoring, or communication connections".
"WaWhen [sic] you are thinking, 'I wonder if Life Corporation could do...?' The answer is probably YES. We can figure out how to turn your idea into reality," the website cryptically promises.
Mr Formella added that his office is now investigating whether Life Corp worked with or at the behest of any other people or organisations.
This story was amended at 11:15am Pacific Time on Thursday 8 February 2024 to add a statement from Lingo Telecom.