Courtney Hostetler, Legal Director at Free Speech For People, joined the League of Women Voters for “Let’s Talk About Digital Threats to Democracy” to discuss how AI was used to intimidate and deceive voters in New Hampshire, what we’re doing about it, and how we can protect voters and elections against future abuses of AI technology.

Thousands of New Hampshire voters received AI-generated robocalls featuring a deepfaked President Biden’s voice telling them not to vote in the New Hampshire primaries just two days before the election. Many of the robocalls “spoofed” the phone number of the former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair—causing her number to appear on many recipients’ caller IDs to make it appear that the robocalls originated with her.

Free Speech For People, on behalf of the League of Women Voters (LWV) and several New Hampshire voters, has filed a federal lawsuit to block the use of AI technology to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or deceive voters. The lawsuit argues that the New Hampshire robocalls violated both the Voting Rights Act, which bans intimidating, threatening, or coercing, or attempting to intimidate, threaten or coerce, any person from voting, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and related provisions of New Hampshire state law, which ban deceiving recipients about the source of robocalls or disseminating political messages via robocalls without disclosing who made and funded the calls.

“The Voting Rights Act is 60 years old. It was written before AI. It was written before spoofing and deep fake existed,” said Hostetler. “But it was not written before voter intimidation existed, and the drafters understood that unfortunately, there’s going to be different ways that intimidation and threats and coercion happen. They wrote it to be a broadly interpreted statute…intended to empower organizations and private citizens to use it to protect voters.”

An amended complaint to the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters addresses criminal indictments issued by the State of New Hampshire charging Steve Kramer, who orchestrated the robocalls, with 13 felony counts of voter suppression and 13 misdemeanor counts of impersonation of a candidate, across four New Hampshire counties. It also includes facts made public through the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement actions against Steve Kramer and Lingo Telecom, which propose respective fines of $6 million and $2 million.

The New Hampshire robocalls will not be the last attempt to intimidate and mislead voters using AI technology. We need to enact legislation that will address this technology as it adapts and provides the same degree of endurance and applicability seen with the Voting Rights Act.

Watch the full webinar here.