Political texts are as legal as they often are annoying

Political texts are as legal as they often are annoying 

Excerpt: As Election Day approaches on Nov. 6, cellphones across Florida will be buzzing as campaigns send huge numbers of unsolicited texts to voters with the assistance of new apps and programs. 

Some people find the messages annoying, but political consultants say texting voters is the break-out mode of communications for the 2018 elections. 

Many recipients think the unsolicited texts are prohibited by law, but campaigns are using programs that operate in a gray area of a federal consumer-protection statute. 

Andrew Gillum, who pulled off a shocking upset in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, sent out more than 1.5 million text messages to 750,000 people, according to Hustle, one of four leading companies providing texting support to campaigns. 

Gillum’s campaign used text messaging to boost event attendance, chase vote-by-mail ballots, encourage early voting and get out the vote on primary day, according to Hustle. 

Campaigns have turned to a new technology called peer-to-peer texting that is different. Peer-to-peer text messages are not automated spam messages sent in bulk at once using random numbers. 

Because of this, peer-to-peer texting doesn’t fall under the same Federal Communications Commission rules as automated text messaging. 

Campaigns say they don’t need consent to initiate a conversation. The Federal Election Commission has advised that text messages don’t need a “paid for” disclaimer because cellphones “have limits on both the size and the length of the information that can be conveyed.” 

Bottom Line: Here’s the good news if you’ve been annoyed with political texts. Misery loves company here. Once upon a time unwanted political emails that seemingly came out of left-field (how many emails do you receive for candidates you’ve never heard of from states that you’ve never voted in for example). These days you’ve likely been hit with political texts. There isn’t a day that’s gone by in recent weeks that Ashley and I haven’t received at least one on our phones. Our comparison is a good barometer for what’s going on. She uses Verizon and I use AT&T. Different phone numbers, gender, etc. Very similar volume of political texts.  

The biggest problem if you’re annoyed by these texts, this side of laws with grey territory being exploited by political campaigns, is that they’ve been effective. That means that they’ll only be more of them until and unless reforms are passed. Part of the problem with hoping for reforms in the near-term is that the very people that are benefiting from them are the people who have to pass laws to take away that ability to annoy us. In that sense it’s like term-limits. A widely popular and bi-partisan reform that’s desired but that’s never taken up because there aren’t many people in public office that want to term themselves out of a “job”.  

For now, the best hope are legal challenges that might gain traction. For example, are these texts operating under the “spirit” of the existing laws? Probably, not right? That has the potential to provide a path for courts to rule accordingly – though that’s kind of rooting for judicial activism which I’m not a fan of seeing.  

This side of blocking numbers in your phone, you can always silence the alerts from that number and that way you’ll be less annoyed and far less likely to be woken up. 

 

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