The FCC's Game-Changing Ruling on AI-Generated Voices in Robocalls and its Impact on Modern Business Communication

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February 15, 2024
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Business Impact of the FCC Ruling on AI-Generated Voices

Imagine answering a call and hearing a voice so realistic you can't tell it's not human. Thanks to AI-generated voices, this is now a reality, and it’s downright scary. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action and announced a unanimous Declaratory Ruling, effective immediately, that expands its oversight of AI-generated voices in robocalls, urging businesses to use them responsibly. This means greater accountability for callers, resulting in possible law enforcement action for bad actors, and potentially reducing robocall volume during an election year.

With Generative AI being top of mind for many businesses, there are a few things to keep in mind given this FCC ruling.

What the FCC ruling means for businesses

The recent FCC ruling clarifies that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs the use of artificial or prerecorded voices, including those using AI to mimic human voices. The ruling also underscores the necessity of obtaining prior express consent from recipients before initiating such calls. Technologies like voice cloning, which replicate human voices, are considered artificial and thus subject to TCPA regulations designed to shield consumers from unwanted calls.

In essence, the Declaratory Ruling establishes that AI-generated voice calls are subject to the same standards and limitations as telemarketing calls and the use of automatic dialing systems. Under the TCPA, the FCC possesses the authority to fine robocallers employing AI to simulate a human voice.

Nowhere is this ruling more crucial than for businesses engaged in marketing and telemarketing use cases. Organizations now face strict requirements for explicit consent before AI-generated calls can be made and harsh penalties for violations. Marketing and telemarketing businesses need to take special care to ensure compliance with these regulations.

How we got here

There are legitimate applications for generative AI in voice conversations, but unfortunately, there’s a darker side to this technology. Bad actors have exploited it, using cloned or synthesized voices to impersonate trusted figures and deceive unsuspecting victims. Recent headlines have shown how these scammers are able to customize their messages with AI-generated voices to increase the success rates of their scams. This level of sophistication, combined with automated AI-powered robocalls, enables scammers to target vulnerable individuals more efficiently, making the FCC ruling even more timely.  

So here’s the deal: AI, when used right, can bring tremendous value to voice conversations. But let’s face it - some bad actors are abusing AI and using it for scams with a new level of sophistication. To stay on the safe side, we’ve got your back with some straightforward tips to help keep you compliant.

With this FCC guidance in mind, how should businesses approach building with Twilio?

Innovating in this age of AI creates many opportunities for businesses, and introduces new responsibilities. At Twilio, we believe building products with AI requires an intentional focus on transparency and privacy, as communicated through the CustomerAI trust principles. Those principles detail the shared responsibility we hold and our commitment to transparency, privacy, data security, bias mitigation, and accountability. 

Of course, responsible communications (and the Twilio Acceptable Use Policy) also require customers to adhere to all laws and regulations, including the recent one concerning robocalls. Non-compliance will result in suspension of services.

In line with the FCC's guidance, if AI is used in outbound calls, customers that use such technologies must obtain prior express consent of the called party to initiate such calls and strictly adhere to TCPA regulations, including providing caller identification and disclosing the responsible entity. In addition, for calls where the AI-generated or prerecorded voice message constitutes telemarketing, an opt-out method must be offered. 

So, even with all that in mind, AI still has plenty of ways to bring value to businesses today.

AI-enhanced Call Transcriptions

AI enables businesses to analyze vast amounts of customer interaction data. Considering the majority of voice calls previously went unanalyzed, this creates new opportunities for businesses to uncover valuable insights from their voice calls and use them to drive growth, automate common interactions, and improve operational efficiency and competitiveness. And with Twilio Voice Intelligence, customers can leverage AI-powered transcriptions to uncover valuable insights from their voice calls and use them to drive growth, automate common interactions, and improve operational efficiency and competitiveness. By understanding customer behavior, preferences, and pain points, businesses can refine their products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet customer needs.

Conversational IVR

Self-service IVR interactions are made more user-friendly with generative AI. By integrating real-time customer data with virtual agents like Dialogflow CX, interactions can be personalized based on individual preferences and past behavior. This tailored approach not only improves the customer experience but also allows human agents to concentrate on more complex conversations, boosting operational efficiency.

Personalized Live Agent interaction

While AI can be used to automate common call flows, there are more complex conversations that are best handled with the warmth and empathy of a live agent. And with generative AI, live agents have real-time access to historical call summaries and individual preferences and use them to deliver personalized and proactive customer experiences that improve CSAT and foster customer loyalty.

It's essential for businesses to prioritize responsible use of AI technologies

The bottom line is the FCC’s ruling on AI voices in robocalls is not about adding more rules, it’s about making the existing rules crystal clear. They're allowing businesses the opportunity to use AI responsibly and within legal boundaries. 

If you stick to the rules and follow the guidance, you’re free to use AI to amp up customer experiences and innovate in a compliant way. This is an exciting time for AI, and there are endless possibilities for businesses to ride the AI wave responsibly and ethically, paving the way for amazing advancements in how we all interact. Cheers to staying compliant while maintaining that competitive edge.