In an election season that’s already full of all manner of strangeness, this probably isn’t the weirdest thing we’ve come across, but it’s definitely odd. There was a robocall going around in New Hampshire yesterday, which is not all that unusual of course. But this one sounded like it was recorded by Joe Biden. And rather than telling people who they should vote for or against, he was advising people to stay home and not vote at all. Except it wasn’t Joe Biden. It certainly sounded quite a bit like him, but it was a robotic voice generated using Artificial Intelligence. So what’s really going on here? The state Attorney General’s office is investigating. (Associated Press)
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office on Monday said it was investigating reports of an apparent robocall that used artificial intelligence to mimic President Joe Biden’s voice and discourage voters in the state from coming to the polls during Tuesday’s primary election.
Attorney General John Formella said the recorded message, which was sent to multiple voters on Sunday, appears to be an illegal attempt to disrupt and suppress voting. He said voters “should disregard the contents of this message entirely.”
A recording of the call reviewed by The Associated Press generates a voice similar to Biden’s and employs his often-used phrase, “What a bunch of malarkey.” It then tells the listener to “save your vote for the November election.”
You can listen to part of the robocall yourself in this YouTube short.
The jokes about mixing Joe Biden and “artificial” intelligence write themselves. The program gets the voice mostly right, but it still has some of those stilted gaps and the unnatural cadence that plagues AI programs. Also, the message itself is rather nonsensical. What competent adult would believe that voting in the primary precludes you from voting in the general election in November? If anyone actually fell for that, perhaps they really should consider taking a pass on voting today.
I’m also wondering what the motivation behind making a recording like this would be. Who benefits if fewer people come out to vote? I’m assuming the call was targeting Democrats because few Republicans are going to be taking election advice from Biden. If they wanted to tamp down the GOP turnout, they would have used Trump’s voice. The only person who might possibly benefit from lower turnout might be Nikki Haley, but even then it would only work if the impact disproportionately led Trump voters to stay home.
On the Democratic side, Biden isn’t even on the ballot because he wanted South Carolina to go first. Unless he eventually drops out or takes another bad fall, this primary shouldn’t mean anything to him. But there is a movement afoot to encourage people to write in Biden’s name today. Could this call have come from a challenger like RFK Jr.’s supporters hoping to run up the score a bit? I suppose that idea is slightly more plausible but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It seems as if the AG should be able to track down the source of the calls. They certainly never seem to have any problems finding people involved in the J6 riot. If that happens, I would imagine that charges of attempted election interference could be brought. But at the end of the day, this was such a ham-handed attempt that I doubt it will move the needle measurably in terms of tonight’s results.