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New Hampshire investigates a robocall that was made to sound like Biden

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New Hampshire's attorney general is investigating a robocall which went to voters and that sounds like it came from President Biden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AI-GENERATED VOICE: What a bunch of malarkey.

INSKEEP: Apparently, it was malarkey, a deepfake, heightening concerns about artificial intelligence in campaigns. Here's NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith - for real.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Democratic activist Kathy Sullivan was out to dinner when she looked down at her phone, saw 10 missed calls and knew something was very wrong.

KATHY SULLIVAN: I called one of them. And this very nice woman, who was not a Biden supporter, said Joe Biden called her, and he had said something about a write-in.

KEITH: Whoever created the AI-generated Biden voice also spoofed Sullivan's number to make it seem like the call was coming from her. Sullivan heads a super PAC that is working to encourage voters to write in Joe Biden today in New Hampshire. Due to a dispute between the Democratic Party and the state, he isn't actually on the ballot. But Sullivan wants to make sure he wins anyway. The totally fake Biden voice on the call was urging Democrats to stay home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AI-GENERATED VOICE: We know the value of voting Democratic when our votes count. It's important that you save your vote for the November election.

KEITH: Robocalls are a common tactic used by campaigns to motivate voters, but this one was pure malarkey, to borrow a Biden-ism. When Sullivan heard a recording of the call, she says she uttered a string of words that can't be played on the radio.

SULLIVAN: This is a disinformation campaign pretending to be from Joe Biden, an effort to suppress the Biden vote. It's just wrong.

KEITH: But with the technology of deepfakes getting better and better, this is not the last time a campaign will be scrambling to correct the record.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Manchester, N.H.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBULO AND SQUEEDA'S "NOCTILUCENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.