Texas firm allegedly behind fake Biden robocall that told people not to vote

Enlarge / U.S. President Joe Biden speaks by telephone in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, May 1, 2023.

Getty Images | Brendan Smialowski

An anti-voting robocall using an artificially generated clone of President Biden's voice has been traced to a Texas company called Life Corporation “and an individual named Walter Monk,” according to an announcement from New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. yesterday.

The Election Law Unit of the AG's Office issued a cease and desist order against Life Corporation for violating a New Hampshire law that prohibits disincentivizing people from voting “on the basis fraudulent, misleading, misleading or deceptive motives or information,” the statement said.

As previously reported, Biden's fake robocall was made before the New Hampshire presidential primary election on January 23. The AG's office said it was investigating “whether Life Corporation worked with or at the direction of other individuals or entities.”

“What a load of nonsense,” said Biden’s fake voice. “You know the importance of voting Democratic when our votes count. It's important that you save your vote for the November election. We will need your help to elect Democrats up and down. Voting this Tuesday only allows Republicans to continue their quest to elect Donald Trump again. Your vote makes the difference in November, not this Tuesday.

Biden's artificial voice appears to have been created using a text-to-speech engine offered by ElevenLabswho would have responded to the news in to suspend the account of the user who created the deepfake.

The robocalls “illegally spoofed caller ID information to appear to come from a number belonging to a former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party,” the AG's office said. Formella, a Republican, said “AI-generated recordings used to mislead voters can have devastating effects on the democratic electoral process.”

Tech companies contributed to the survey

Formella's announcement states that YouMail and Nomorobo helped identify the robocalls and that the calls were traced back to Life Corporation and Walter Monk with the help of the Industry Traceback Group run by the telecommunications industry. Nomorobo estimated the number of calls between 5,000 and 25,000.

“Research further identified the original voice service provider for many of these calls as Texas-based Lingo Telecom. After Lingo Telecom was informed that these calls were under investigation, Lingo Telecom has suspended its services to Life Corporation,” the AG’s office said.

The Election Law Unit has issued document preservation notices and subpoenas for the records of Life Corporation, Lingo Telecom and other entities “that may possess documents relevant to the Attorney General's ongoing investigation.” , indicates the press release.

The media didn't have much luck trying to get a comment from Monk. “In his Arlington office, the door was locked when NBC 5 knocked,” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth said. article said. “A man inside peeked around the corner to see who was ringing the doorbell, but did not answer the door.”

The New York Times reports that “a subsidiary of Life Corporation called Voice Broadcasting Corp., which identifies Mr. Monk as its founder on his websitehas received numerous payments from the Delaware Republican Party state committee, most recently in 2022, as well as payments from congressional candidates of both parties.

Another company, also called Life Corporation, posted a message on its homepage saying: “We are a medical device manufacturer located in Florida and are not affiliated with the Texas company cited in the current news.” »

FCC warns carrier

The Federal Communications Commission said yesterday that it takes action against Lingo Telecom. The FCC said it sent a letter demanding that Lingo “immediately cease supporting illegal robocall traffic on its networks,” as well as a K4 order that “strongly encourages other providers to refrain from carrying suspicious traffic from Lingo”.

“The FCC may require other network providers affiliated with Lingo to block its traffic if the company continues this behavior,” the agency said.

The FCC is separately planning a vote to declare that the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls is illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

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