NYC mayor Eric Adams robocalls residents with audio deepfakes

Occurred: October 2023

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The Mayor of New York City called local residents using audio deepfakes to communicate in languages he doesn't speak.

The Office of the Mayor used ElevenLabs' AI voice simulator to generate Eric Adams' voice speaking Spanish (example), Yiddish, Mandarin, and Cantonese in order 'to reach more people' when he was promoting local events such as recruitment fairs and concerts. 

According to the mayor, some people he had 'spoken to' were 'excited' to hear their mayor in their own language. 'We are becoming more welcoming by using technology to speak a multitude of languages,' he said. Over four million people had reputedly been reached by the calls.

Campaigners criticised the mayor's calls as 'unethical' and 'deeply irresponsible' and accused him of deliberately misleading people into thinking he could speak multiple languages when he only spoke English, and not informing them that his voice had been manipulated. 'Using AI to convince New Yorkers that he speaks languages that he doesn't is deeply Orwellian,' the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project's Albert Cahn said.

The incident also prompted concerns that the use of deepfakes by politicians is likely to erode trust in public figures, government, and public information.


Operator: Office of the Mayor of New York City
Developer: ElevenLabs
Country: USA
Sector: Politics
Purpose: Communicate with citizens
Technology: Deepfake - audio; Generative adversarial network (GAN); Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Transparency: Marketing

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: October 2023