AI deepfakes of mass shooting victims used to lobby Congress for gun control

AI deepfakes of mass shooting victims used to lobby Congress for gun control

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It’s not often we hear about deepfake content being used as a force for good, but a group of activists in the U.S. will tell you that they began doing exactly that this week when they used the technology to lobby members of Congress for stricter gun laws in the country.

On Wednesday, exactly six years after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, families of some of the deceased through the public sent artificial intelligence-generated voice messages to House members who support the National Rifle Association and oppose gun reform in the U.S.

The recreated voices are part of a campaign the parents started called The Shotline. Working with the U.K.-based creative communications agency MullenLowe Global, the group supplied real voice recordings of their deceased children and, through training with machine learning technology, create deepfakes to spread the message.

The people involved understood this would be emotionally taxing, hearing their lost children speak again, but the idea was to send something to lawmakers that would be much more powerful than any other kind of recording. “It’s been six years, and you’ve done nothing,” said one of the AI-generated voices. “Not a thing to stop all the shootings that have happened since. I’m back today because my parents used AI to recreate my voice to call you. Other victims like me will be calling too.”

This was the voice of Joaquin Oliver, one of the teenagers killed at Parkland. It’s believed thousands of calls were made to lawmakers through the website on Wednesday.

“I died that day in Parkland,” went another of the messages. “My body was destroyed by a weapon of war.… Other victims like me will be calling, too, again and again, to demand action. How many calls will it take for you to care? How many dead voices will you hear before you finally listen?”

The campaign also included the family of a 23-year-old who was one of four people killed during a 2018 shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Tennessee. Another voice is of a 10-year-old who died in the 2022 Uvalde school shooting in Texas in which 22 people died – including the shooter – and 18 were injured.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission actually banned robocalls in the U.S. after Joe Biden’s voice was artificially generated and called residents of New Hampshire. The Shotline calls are not banned, however, because they’re not auto-dialed or made to landlines, and because they provide a callback number.

Photo: Heather Mount/Unsplash

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