In the emergent era of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern whether an image, voice, or video is real or generated. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has noticed how bad actors can exploit this and announced rule changes that would make voice imitation technology used to scam consumers with robocalls illegal. By keeping their rulemaking specific and using existing laws instead of creating broad new powers, the FCC has demonstrated that novel problems can be tackled without unnecessarily increasing the size of the bureaucratic state.

The issue of voice imitation is only becoming more serious as technology becomes cheaper, easier to access, and better at mimicking human behavior. In early February, New Hampshire’s Attorney General revealed that AI-generated robocalls had been used to mimic President Biden’s voice. This robot Joe Biden was discouraging voters in the state from voting, presenting a serious problem.

The FCC’s new rule is well-tailored and focused on a time when many other agency rules are not. It builds on an existing legal precedent, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and classifies the use of AI voices as “artificial” under that existing framework. Because the TCPA already made the “initiat[ion] [of] any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party” illegal, the framework for dealing with AI robocalls already existed. The FCC wisely included AI in this existing act, forgoing any unnecessary and overreaching efforts to expand the bureaucratic state.

Far from the norm, many agency rule changes as of late have been overreaching and counterproductive, even at the FCC. In the agency’s proposed rulemaking on “Net Neutrality,” the classification of broadband service is changed from Title I to Title II, which effectively increases regulatory overreach without providing a reason. Unlike the soft touch approach of the AI robocall rulemaking, this change addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, with a solution that is over the top and highly bureaucratic.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), likewise, has proposed multiple unnecessary and overreaching rule changes, including a rule that expands the agency’s authority over digital wallets without first demonstrating that it is a necessity. While digital wallets present a few novel issues, like the potential for criminals to access a user’s finances from their phone, people already have the tools necessary to mitigate these risks through two-factor authentication. The agency’s decision to impose a blanket rule in this new market, instead of addressing the actual issue at hand, stands in stark contrast to the FCC’s relatively modest definitional clarification of voice imitation technology.

All of this demonstrates that good rulemaking that protects consumers without bloating administration is possible. Additionally, the FCC is not granting itself new authority and the TCPA pertains to telephone communication, and any illegal activity within that context. The ruling is within the existing confines of the TCPA’s effort to combat uninitiated mass robocalls, and definitional clarification is limited to this context.

Hopefully, other agencies and other efforts by the FCC take note of this kind of rulemaking. A rule like this harkens back to the true purpose of agencies like the FCC, which is to protect consumers from malicious and exploitative practices.

Isaac Schick is with the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org or follow us on X @ConsumerPal