NEPTUNE — Annoying and abusive robocalls are the target of new federal legislation from a Garden State congressman.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, announced the Do Not Disturb Act, which aims to protect consumers from being bombarded by unwanted and sometimes malicious calls.

Pallone said he's making the move in response to a Supreme Court decision in 2021 that narrowed the definition of these auto dials and excluded the bulk of robocalls taking place today.

"For some it may be a nuisance, but actually it's a lot more serious than that," Pallone said during a news conference at a senior center. "If people are afraid to pick up the phone, community services and public health and public safety are jeopardized."

In December alone, 12.2 million robocalls were made to callers with a 732 area code, Pallone said.

The new act, Pallone said, would "plug loopholes" by including a wide a range of messaging within the definition of robocalls. Text messages would also be covered — currently, automatic texts are not included in protections for consumers.

Additionally, the act would require the creation of a database of the top illegal robocall campaigns, Pallone said. That database would be updated monthly, so Americans know which scams may be most likely to target them.

Noting that artificial intelligence is giving scammers a better chance of succeeding, Pallone said his act also would require the disclosure of the use of AI to emulate human interaction over text or phone.

Pallone's bill would double penalties for robocall violations when AI is used to impersonate someone.

"This comprehensive legislation is long overdue to protect Americans from these annoying calls and texts, and I look forward to the hard work ahead to see it across the finish line and signed into law," Pallone said.

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