SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Rebecca Damon speaks at a workshop on voice cloning in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 28.

You can’t believe everything you hear. That’s becoming especially true as technology advances and it becomes ever-easier to duplicate people’s voices to a near-perfect quality. Artificial intelligence is now allowing researchers to create stunningly accurate clones of people’s voices with only a five-second sample.

SAG-AFTRA is on the forefront of trying to prevent the abuse of these kinds of tools, whether they are used to clone the images or voices of members, and SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Rebecca Damon is making sure the union’s voice is being heard on the issue. She represented the union at a Federal Trade Commission-sponsored workshop at the Constitution Center in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 28.

“We are excited to work with the technology industry, the government, our fellow unions, scholars and the public to ensure the incredible uses of vocal artificial intelligence remain empowering and positive for all stakeholders — including our members — with ethical standards, clear consent and fair compensation,” Damon said. “Thank you to the Federal Trade Commission for helping advance this critical issue for public safety and security and the future of work.”

Luminaries in education, technology and government came together at the workshop to discuss how voice cloning can be used and misused, and the work being done on tools to help distinguish the fakes from the real McCoy. 

It’s an issue that’s important for the future of SAG-AFTRA members, whose voices — and livelihoods — could be ripped off. And it isn’t just audiobook or voiceover performers that could be affected. The phony audio could be combined with “deepfake” images to create a wholly manufactured video of anyone saying anything, including news reporters and government officials. Additionally, the technology could be used by unscrupulous people to generate robocalls or target people for scams by cloning the voices of their family or friends.

As with any new tool, it can be used for good or bad. Voice cloning can also open up new creative frontiers or allow people who have had tracheotomies regain their voices. That’s why SAG-AFTRA is leading the conversation to ensure members’ interests are protected as we advance into a bold new era.

Photo: SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Rebecca Damon speaks at a workshop on voice cloning in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 28. The event was organized by the Federal Trade Commission.


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