Shooting victims are ‘calling’ members of Congress. Is it OK to use AI to clone your child’s voice to deliver a political message?

By Cesareo Contreras

Since the middle of February, members of Congress have received more than 119,000 calls demanding that they pass stricter gun control laws. But these aren’t the typical kind of calls made by constituencies voicing their concerns. 

Through the use of artificial intelligence these calls are seemingly being made from the grave — by children who were killed as a direct result of gun violence. 

“In 2018, when I was 15 years old, I was killed by an unsecure gun at my friend’s house,” reads a message in the voice of Connecticut native Ethan Song. “My parents recreated my voice using AI so I can finally ask you to do something to protect kids.” 

These messages are being sent using a new website called The Shotline. The platform was born out of a partnership between Change the Ref and March For Our Lives, two organizations that were formed in response to the school shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

The groups have partnered with ElevenLabs, an AI company that creates synthetic voices using recorded speech, for the project. Their aim is to flood Congress with these messages to get members to take issues around gun control more seriously. In a few clicks, users of the site can send these voice messages to their representatives and senators. 

Rupal Patel, a Northeastern professor who has spent her career researching how technology can be used to help give people their voices back, believes it’s a creative use of the technology.  

“It makes it real,” Patel says. “It’s not necessarily about the person. It’s about the story, and by adding a voice to it we can see what they sounded like, what their dreams were. We associate that with a voice, that closeness.”    

Continue reading at Northeastern Global News.