Exploring the role of ethics in Text to Speech technology

Ananay Batra

Ananay Batra

· 5 min read

TTS technology permeates our day-to-day lives and is essential to our modern existence. A symbiotic relationship that supplements our productivity and revolutionizes how we consume content. Optimizing for efficiency is the motto of our times.

But as the famous Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and that is true for TTS as well. Its prevalent use and implications fall under the ethical grey zone. Nearly 40 percent of users have trust issues with voice assistants. Therefore, concrete policies and laws need to be established to curb the unjust and illicit use of TTS.

It is essential to open a discussion on the role of ethics in TTS and evaluate the moral ambiguities:

Manipulation with deepfake voice

Deepfaking is a reality now, following the decade-long innovations in TTS and deep learning. It is a reasonably non-complex process that requires only two inputs - the voice of someone dictating a paragraph and the paragraph of the text itself.

So it is not uncommon for agents with bad intentions to clone real voices for illegal use. On one end, a person’s voice is used without permission, on the other side, the synthesized voice might be used for fraudulent transactions.

Perpetrators using deepfake voices to permeate false statements and news in the media can have devastating consequences of fooling and misleading a large unsuspecting audience.

TTS invading personal privacy

Companies providing TTS services and voice assistance collect all kinds of data and should guarantee data security. Since the mic on smart speakers is always switched on to detect keywords, it inadvertently picks up many private details about the users.

The data collected this way could be used for malicious practices and targeted advertisements. It is entirely possible that personal data could get compromised in moments of a security breach.


Source: freepick

The onus of data security from outside threats lies on the company. Laws need to constrict data retention by these services to an absolute minimum.

Voice cloning without consent

Intellectual property is the person’s right to his ideas and creations. Voice comes under the purview of personal intellectual property (IP) that cannot be replicated without approval.

Licenses and royalties need to be devised to allow the lawful use of someone’s voice with appropriate payment. The development of new tech to discern between real and synthetic voices is crucial at this point.

Tussle between voice actors and AI voices

As TTS gets mass acceptance across industries, it will replace real-life voice artists. Though it might sound concerning at first, it is an expected and natural outcome of technological advancement and automation.


Source: pixabay

The voice industry will thrive in conjunction and collaboration with Voice AIs and TTS. Jobs that require detailed and seasoned voice modulations will be reserved for human voice artists. Cloning a voice actor’s voice could create avenues for mass consumption and faster throughput.

Now that we have a better appreciation for the ethics surrounding TTS and voice cloning, let’s see how we can build systems to prevent malpractices:

Prevention from Unethical Practices in TTS

Watermark embedded in TTS

TTS engines can embed a peculiar watermark onto the synthetic voice, recognizable only to AIs and not to humans. This ensures the authenticity of TTS voices under suspicion. News can utilize this feature to discern between fake and real voices and only allow authentic speeches.

Strict laws and regulations

Countries and companies have to impose strict laws forbidding the nonconsensual use of someone's voice and safeguarding the IP of both the users and the voiceover artists.

Companies that provide TTS services should license voice use to third parties with proper verification and accountability. Certain detrimental practices and activities can be restricted by adhering to contracts and certificates.


Source: pixabay

Awareness in common public

Ignorance about human-like TTS and voice AI is the root cause of voice scams and frauds. People need to be educated about the accuracy of voice cloning and should be wary of suspicious calls they receive.

The knowledge that even news and public opinion can be manipulated with the inappropriate use of TTS is a step in the right direction.

  1. Collaboration with voice actors

TTS needs to complement and not compete with traditional voice artists. While displacement of few jobs is imminent, voice artists have to be compensated for lending their voice. Contracts and legal bindings are necessary for fair payment and preventing unauthorized use.

Systems are required which allow artists to earn upon each replication of their voice and for a stipulated time.

TTS and AI voice drastically reduce production costs and boost regular media consumption in alternate forms. The use cases are limitless, from audio articles and movie voice-overs to better education for the learning disabled.

As the TTS tech progresses, we need to create frameworks that prevent its ill use. There is much to untangle and rethink about the formerly held notions of ethics.

If you want to create organic TTS narrations, Listnr provides TTS that is customizable to the minutest detail in speech. Get in touch with us today.


    • How are AI voices created?

AI voices use neural networks and deep learning to synthesize voices that sound human-like. There are many neural network frameworks like Wavenet, Deepvoice, and SP2TTS. These use convolutional networks along with transformers for training.

    • Can you Deepfake a voice?

Yes, deepfake voices are possible with deep learning and neural network. The process can be divided into training and testing. In training, you need to speak a set of given sentences into the clone engine, which trains with your voice and the given text.

In testing, you feed in your desired text for TTS conversion. With each new data point, the engine improves itself.

    • What is the best voiceover generator?

The best voiceover generator offers general to minute customizations and requires minimal input from the user. A TTS engine that aligns with your needs will work the best for you.

Listnr TTS provides detailed adjustments with a pool of over 570 voices and 75 languages. It also offers a premium embeddable player for your blogs and websites.

    • How much does a voiceover recording cost?

Voiceover recording costs can vary depending on the voice artist. An experienced voice artist will charge higher and be harder to schedule. The recording process could take hours, subject to the individual’s prowess.

Ananay Batra

About Ananay Batra

Founder and CEO @ Listnr Inc

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