How to kill political robocalls

If you hate automated phone calls from campaigns as much as I do, you'll appreciate Reverse Robocall -- a cool way to fight back.

Are you ticked off by automated phone calls from political candidates? Now you can do something about it. Visit Reverse Robocall, and for less than the cost of a latte you can make your own automated calls to politicians about things that really bug you (like robocalls). 

It’s pretty simple. Choose the issue, party, political entity, or representative you want to call. Plug your phone number into the site. Reverse Robocall will call your phone and let you record a message. Hang up and pay online to have that message sent and get an email report on whether the calls were answered. Better yet, you can post recordings of those calls online, if you choose, so others can listen in and rate your call (witty, angry, dull, etc).

The calls generally cost $2.49 per elected official, but there are group discounts. Got something you need to share with all the major GOP candidates running for president? That will run you $6.49. Have an urge to dial up every Democratic member of Congress? The pleasure can be yours for the low low price of just $19.49.

Reverse Robocall is the brainchild of privacy activists Shaun Dakin and Aaron Titus. According to Dakin, 69 percent of Americans received at least one robocall during the last election cycle. Those in battleground states likely received multiple calls in a single day. And while commercial robocalls to your cell phone are verboten under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (but still happen anyway), political calls to your mobile are legal in 48 states.

But even commercial robocalls may soon be legal, if the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 (HR 3035) comes to pass. Two months ago Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) introduced this bill, which would lift the TCPA’s restrictions on “informational robocalls” to mobile numbers. Its primary sponsor, per Dakin: The US debt collection industry, which wants to harangue its targets in the cheapest, most obnoxious way possible. 

So Dakin built a list for people who don’t want every politico and/or scumbag robocalling their cell phones. For $6.49, you can set up a call that will be sent to the Congressional sponsors of HR 3055, along with the White House and key lobbyists – 45 all told.

Here’s the text of the call I made (as well as the recording):

Hi. My name's Dan Tynan, I'm a US taxpayer opposed to HR 3035, and this is a robocall. Not much fun, is it? I'm glad you agree. Please join me in preventing the Mobile Informational Call Act from becoming law. Otherwise I'm planning to robocall you like this at least once a day for the next two years. Thank you.

(I’m not really planning to call them every day for two years – I can’t afford it. But they don’t know that.)

Dakin also runs the Political Do Not Call list for people who are sick of being harangued by politicians seeking their money, time, or votes. Unlike the FTC’s Do Not Call list, however, compliance with Dakin’s list is voluntary. So far, he says, 25 politicians have requested his list, making it more of a symbolic gesture than a practical way to avoid voice spam.

The problem with stopping political robocalls, of course: Congress appears quite happy to regulate virtually anything but itself. What a surprise.

Of course, you can just pick up the phone and dial your Congressfolks for free, then spend that $2.49 at Starbucks. You can send them an email or a tweet. But you’d have to spend a fair amount of time looking up their numbers and addresses, especially if you want to contact a bunch of them about the same issue. Locating lobbyists is even harder. You probably won’t be able to share your message across the Net. And there’s something about hearing someone actually speak about an issue they care about that can’t be duplicated, Dakin adds.

“There are very few tools that allow people to advocate for a particular issue literally in their own voice, where you can hear someone’s passion and intonation, you can tell if they’re young or they’re old,” he says. “You can't do that with email or Twitter.”

Bottom line: Don’t like robocalls? Then make one of your own.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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