Feb 16, 2024 - Business

FTC seeks to ban impersonation fraud as AI enables deepfakes

Illustration of a laptop wearing glasses and moustache set disguise.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Federal regulators are poised to ban the impersonation of anyone, aiming to thwart scams in an AI-driven world.

Why it matters: An imminent onslaught of deepfake video and audio is creating a sense of urgency to protect consumers.

Driving the news: The FTC announced Thursday that it's proposing to modify a rule that already prevents the impersonation of government and businesses to include the impersonation of individuals.

  • "Emerging technology — including AI-generated deepfakes — threatens to turbocharge this scourge, and the FTC is committed to using all of its tools to detect, deter, and halt impersonation fraud," the commission said in a statement.

Between the lines: The FTC's proposed rule could specifically make it illegal to use AI platforms to foster impersonation, such as "voice cloning" and falsified video.

  • The Federal Communications Commission earlier this month declared the use of AI-generated voices in scam robocalls to be illegal.

Threat level: Americans already have a hard enough time deciphering fact from fiction when only text stories are involved.

  • Imagine how dangerous it will be when scammers can easily impersonate someone's trusted friend, family member, work colleague or celebrity.

What they're saying: "I think that it will not be too long before we are generating all sorts of media that is indistinguishable from reality," AI expert Jeff Clune told Nathan for his book, "After the Fact," adding that "it goes for fake news broadcasts, fake radio broadcasts, potentially entire fake magazines, fake novels, fake news stories, the whole nine yards."

  • That book was published in 2018.

💭 Out thought bubble, via Axios AI+ co-author Ryan Heath: "The FTC's move is consistent with both Lina Khan's expansive view of its role in regulating markets, and the Biden administration prioritizing enforcing existing laws and using existing agencies to set AI guardrails, rather than waiting for comprehensive AI legislation or creating a federal AI agency."

The bottom line: We're seeing the beginnings of AI regulation.

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