New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella announced Tuesday that robocalls with an “AI-generated clone” of President Biden’s voice encouraging voters not to participate in the Granite State’s primaries last month have been traced back to two Texas-based companies – and vowed possible federal and state action to ensure election integrity.
Formella, a Republican, held a press conference in Concord to describe how on Jan. 21 – just two days before the Jan. 23 primary – “numerous New Hampshire voters received robocalls that played a recorded message and what is believed to be an AI-generated clone of President Biden’s voice.”
He said the robocalls encouraged recipients not to participate in the primary.
“It’s important that you save your vote for the November election,” the calls stated, according to Formella. The calls added, “Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE INVESTIGATING FAKE BIDEN ROBOCALL TELLING VOTERS NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN TUESDAY’S PRIMARY
“The robocalls illegally spoofed their caller ID information to appear to come from a number belonging to the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The recorded message also instructed recipients to call that number to ask that person be removed from future calls,” he said.
“After we received multiple reports and complaints on the day these calls were made and the day after these calls were made, my office immediately opened an investigation,” Formella said, describing how his office’s Election Law Unit worked with the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force, a bipartisan task force made up of 50 state attorneys general, and the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau. After identifying specific calls, the Election Law Unit requested “tracebacks” via an entity known as Industry Traceback Group.
“After looking at these tracebacks and reviewing the information received, we have identified the source of these calls to be Life Corporation, which is a Texas-based company owned by an individual named Walter Monk. The tracebacks also identified the originating source provider as Lingo Telecom, which is a Texas-based service provider. Other entities who are not necessarily responsible for the calls, but who we believe also have pertinent information have also been identified,” Formella said.
After Lingo Telecom was informed that these calls were being investigated, Lingo Telecom suspended services to Life Corporation.
Individuals or entities who placed these calls face potential civil and criminal penalties under multiple New Hampshire laws, including those prohibiting voter suppression. Federal penalties could also come under the Truth and Caller ID Act of 2009 prohibiting anyone from transmitting inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. Any person that knowingly facilitates the transmission of illegal robocalls, may be liable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal statute, Formella said.
The New Hampshire Department of Justice issued a cease-and-desist letter on Tuesday to Life Corporation that orders the company to immediately stop violating New Hampshire election laws. Formella said his office opened a criminal investigation, and the next steps in that probe include sending document preservation notices and subpoenas to Life Corporation, Lingo Telecom and any other individual or entity believed to have relevant information.
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“We will continue our work to identify and hold all individuals or companies who may be responsible for these acts accountable, and we are keeping all enforcement options on the table,” the state agency said.
The FCC on Tuesday also issued a cease-and-desist order to Lingo Telecom “demanding that it immediately stop allowing illegal robocall traffic on its platform,” Formella said. “Further enforcement action from the FCC remains on the table pending investigation.”
The attorney general anti-robocall task force is also issuing a warning letter and is taking other steps to prepare for potential civil litigation against Life Corporation and any other involved entity, he said. New Hampshire will be a co-lead in any civil or criminal action that may come as a result of the investigation.
Formella specifically thanked the attorneys general of North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana as a “great example of bipartisan collaboration in respects to threats to our electoral process.” He also thanked the companies YouMail and Nomorobo, which help collect data on illegal robocalls.
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“Ensuring public confidence in the electoral process is vital, and in law enforcement I can say it’s one of our highest priorities,” Formella said. “We are providing this update and information today to ensure the public that we take this seriously and that this is one of our most important priorities, but we are also providing this update and information to send a strong message of deterrence to any person or entity who would attempt to undermine our elections through AI or other means. Our message is clear. Law enforcement across the country is unified on a bipartisan basis and ready to work together to combat any attempt to undermine our elections. We are committed to keeping our elections free, fair and secure.”
“We will not tolerate any action that seeks to undermine the integrity of our election and our democratic process,” he added.
Fox News’ Molly Line contributed to this report.