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Reverse Robocall Turns Tables On Politicians 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-spams-the-spammers dept.
jfruhlinger writes "One of the great banes of election season is that any politician can shell out a few pennies per voter and phone-spam thousands of people who'd rather not hear a recorded pitch. But turnabout's fair play, and now a service called reverse robocall will deliver your recorded message to elected officials as often as you'd like for a nominal fee. If there's a representative you'd like to call repeatedly, check them out."
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Reverse Robocall Turns Tables On Politicians

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  • Excellent! (Score:2, Insightful)

    Turnabout is fair play.
    • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:32PM (#38285710)

      not quite the same..

      this calls the politician's offices (which are staffed by people other than them)

      they call your home and cell phones

    • by errandum (2014454)

      In the end you'll never reach them, only the bottom of the bottom that is handling the phones. You're making that guys day miserable...

      It'b be fun if they ended up doing the same to you and spamm your home phone because you spammed theirs :P

      • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morethanapapercert (749527) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:38PM (#38286248)
        simple solution for that, just set your phone to call forward to the politicians call centre! Done right, and with a bit of luck, you could take out multiple call agents (and trunk bandwidth with every call they make!
        • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @08:03PM (#38286478)

          csb time: I had just added fancy dialing packages for call-forwarding, call-waiting, caller-id and some others (this was 10 or 15 yrs ago when that was still somewhat new). I wasn't used to all the star- number- number codes yet.

          I was planning on having a phone interview and didn't want to be disturbed, so I disabled call-waiting for the duration of the call. I dialed the prefix, waited for beeps, then dialed the number for the company I was supposed to interview with. we had our little interview chat and we ended the call. that was that.

          or so I thought.

          a day or two goes by and my girlfriend (who gets all the calls; I never get phone calls) tells me that people have not been calling her lately. is something wrong with the phone? I go to check things out.

          yes, it turns out, I had enabled call-forwarding for the duration of that call. and all calls! until explicitly disabled!

          even worse, the poor guy at the company that I called: he was getting OUR phone calls! "who the hell is alison? why do people keep calling asking for alison?? I just don't understand it!". I can imagine that is what was going thru the poor guy's head.

          I never did hear back from that company. not sure if they knew what was going on or not; but it was only enabled for a few days...

          learned my lesson. make sure you press the right sequence and don't just assume you got *-something-something right.

    • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:46PM (#38285832) Homepage

      Turnabout is fair play.

      Or, it might get you into trouble.

      The politicians who wrote the laws about such things game themselves an exemption to call you. It is entirely possible that if you turn around it do it to them, you could be doing something illegal.

      Remember, the deck is stacked, and not in your favor.

      • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:55PM (#38285910)

        I'd like to see a politician sue someone for robocalling them, see if that works out in their favor.

        • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:09PM (#38286024) Homepage

          I'd like to see a politician sue someone for robocalling them, see if that works out in their favor.

          They wrote the laws, gave themselves an exemption, and have better access to law enforcement and legal advice than you or I.

          You're more than welcome to test your theory and see how it turns out.

          I'm just pointing out that they've stacked the deck in their favor, and that if you or I did the same thing they'd probably find some other laws they can abuse to make us go away.

          Me, I'd expect you'd get a visit from the local police or from a Federal Agency. Neither is likely to turn out like you might hope.

          • by Fluffeh (1273756)

            They wrote the laws, gave themselves an exemption, and have better access to law enforcement and legal advice than you or I.

            While I agree that they have better access to legal advice, if you really did want to stick it to the man, your country still has courts that may stick to the letter of the law, but juries generally vote with common sense and a sense of justice. I would be very very surprised if the found someone guilty of robocalling the same candidate that robocalled them. If you filed for costs right at the start, you would likely get off free minus your time in court. The deck might be stacked in their favour, but a jur

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Except that judges usually don't tell the ignorant masses which compose a jury about jury nullification, and if they do, they instruct the jury to follow the law and not allow sympathy towards a party to sway their decision. Further, one attorney or the other, or the court itself, depending on jurisdiction will weed out jury members who might be emotionally swayed, or have the intelligence to understand the concept behind jury nullification.

              It's a great idea in theory, but in practice, people are usually to

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward

                The most common expression of jury nullification in years past was for all-white juries to refuse to convict whites for murdering blacks. Juries are expressly for the purpose of deciding the facts, not the law, for precisely this reason.

                • by Fjandr (66656)

                  This might be true, except that it's not. There are states which explicitly give juries the power to decide both law and fact in their Constitutions. Oregon is one such state, though the jury instructions they give directly contradict the state's Constitution.

              • by shentino (1139071)

                Not to mention that lying during voir dire about your propensity to advocate jury nullification is perjury.

                • Re:Excellent! (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by bckrispi (725257) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:11PM (#38293924)

                  Exactly. The last time I was summoned for Jury Duty, the judge told us "raise your hand if you will consider anything beyond the evidence and your instructions during deliberations." Out of a pool of about 100, mine was the only hand to go up. I was under oath, and had to answer honestly. When questioned personally about my action, I informed the Judge, "It is my belief that our Constitution does not forbid jury nullification. As a juror, who has the potential to legally strip a defendant of liberty and property, I am the final arbiter of 'justice' in the application of the law, and the only thing standing between a defendant, and punishment for a law which may be unfair. In an extreme case, I cannot guarantee I would not use this power to nullify." The judge nodded and subtly smiled, apparently somewhat amused. The defense attorney's smile was more pronounced. And I could easily hear the Prosecuting attorney's pen as it scratched my name off his list.

        • good point, but in the citizens favour is the fact that he is one person, making repeated but solitary calls to a single number, and one that is one of the official lines of communication with his representative. (with recent events, it's hard to write that without laughing, as if the politician actually represented any of his electors!)

          The politician, on the other hand, is making thousands of calls, to thousands of numbers. In many cases, they are calling a given individual more than once as they cycle t

          • State laws vary. I've had trouble with a local politician whose district has never included me (but whose district did cover another part of the ZIP code my phone number was issued in) whose robocalls come in as early as 6 AM and as late as 10 PM. The Secretary of State's office for my state (since US states don't have foreign relations, the SOS office deals primarily with incorporating companies and conducting elections) said that it would not be illegal for them to robocall me at any hour of day or night.
      • Re:Excellent! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:02PM (#38285960)
        Any reasonably competent lawyer could argue you out of any charges on this on first amendment grounds. Not primarily the freedom of speech part, although that enters in, but the "right of the people to...petition the government for redress of grievances" part.
        • Re:Excellent! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @12:01AM (#38287902)

          Any reasonably competent lawyer could argue you out of any charges on this on first amendment grounds. Not primarily the freedom of speech part, although that enters in, but the "right of the people to...petition the government for redress of grievances" part.

          Any mentally competent American can see there is no Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Amendments being afforded any level of respect anywhere, in this post 9/11, PATRIOTic era we live in.

          Spare me the history lesson until you can prove we actually still have a justice system, and not a legal system that does nothing but cater to the 1% who in this case, also happen to be the same 1% charging you with a crime. Good luck.

          • by ppanon (16583)
            Yep. Communist Russia had a wonderful constitution, outlining all sorts of individual rights, and it was regularly ignored by the state apparatus. With a majority of the USA Supreme Court now biased in favour of corporate rights over individual rights, non court-supervised secret intelligence/military operations against citizens, and more - the USA is well travelled down that same path.
      • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:03PM (#38285980)

        The politicians who wrote the laws about such things game themselves an exemption to call you. It is entirely possible that if you turn around it do it to them, you could be doing something illegal.

        They didn't just exempt themselves, they exempted political organisations [ftc.gov] - an organisation dedicated to delivering the grievances of the citizenry to politicians sounds like the very definition of a political organisation. But then again, I am not a lawyer or a politician.

      • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by darkpixel2k (623900) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:06PM (#38286000) Homepage

        Turnabout is fair play.

        Or, it might get you into trouble.

        The politicians who wrote the laws about such things game themselves an exemption to call you. It is entirely possible that if you turn around it do it to them, you could be doing something illegal.

        Remember, the deck is stacked, and not in your favor.

        Exactly.

        I've had to run a few of the robocall systems, and I frequently asked questions about it all.

        Me: Can we give them a 'press 1 to unsubscribe' option?
        Them: No, otherwise everyone would unsubscribe.

        Me: What should I do with incoming calls (when people hit *69)?
        Them: Just drop the call.

        Me: I thought robocalling was illegal?
        Them: It is. We're exempt because there are special provisions in $STATE-TELEMARKETER-BILL that allow for political calls.

        Me: Hmm. The bill says we must stop calling at 6 PM, otherwise it says were 'harassing' people and could be liable...
        Them: Look further down--it says political calls are exempt and can be run until 9 PM. And also on Saturday as early as 9 AM.

        I remember waaay back in 7th grade, a kid was trying to impress everyone on the playground by saying he could build a 'screamer' bomb. It was a special 'pulse' you could send down the phone line that would blow up computers at the other end. Untraceable too.

        *sigh* Every 4 years I start wishing that kid was right... ;)

        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          I remember waaay back in 7th grade, a kid was trying to impress everyone on the playground by saying he could build a 'screamer' bomb. It was a special 'pulse' you could send down the phone line that would blow up computers at the other end. Untraceable too.

          *sigh* Every 4 years I start wishing that kid was right... ;)

          Back in college, I had a computer which experienced a motherboard frying. This was determined to have been due to a lightning strike, which went through the phone line, hitting the modem which did not have protection circuitry, thus making its way to the juicy components. I'm not saying throw lightning bolts at Congress, or am I?

        • Re:Excellent! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mysidia (191772) * on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @10:18PM (#38287314)

          Me: Can we give them a 'press 1 to unsubscribe' option? Them: No, otherwise everyone would unsubscribe.

          How about a reversal of this... when someone calls your home, you have a "call screening device" that asks the person to "Please press 1"

          Since the robocaller cannot press 1, their call will be dropped in 20 seconds and never heard.

          • Re:Excellent! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cl0secall (449952) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:03AM (#38288358) Homepage

            Been there, done that. I had an old system hooked up to the phone line with an FXO card and running asterisk. It had a default-deny policy -- meaning that if there wasn't an explicitly defined route that matched the incoming caller ID info the caller would get a short, snarky recording telling them to get lost and then get disconnected. If you got past that hump, the next step was "to continue in english, press 1". The next hump is a call queue where you'd hear hold music. At that point the phones inside the house would actually start to ring.

            It was fun to look through the CDR list at the end of the month and look at all the calls that got dropped due to no Caller ID info. Since then the hard drive died and I've been too lazy to hash out the replacement system.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Turnabout is fair play.

      Turn about is justa a backfire waiting to happen.
      Doing this just gives them another reason to ignore their constituents.

      They won't even ban the practice or pass laws against it, they will simply send everything to voice mail
      and dump anything coming from these services directly in the trash.

  • Legality? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:24PM (#38285620)

    Is this legal? Didn't they specifically write exemptions into the do-not-call list legislation exempting political parties?

  • How come nobody had ever thought of this? It's pure genius. Now, a similar option for telemarketers would be even better...
    • by afidel (530433)
      Interesting idea, since businesses aren't covered by the do not call registry you'd be clear there, but you still might fall afoul of harassment laws if you repeatedly call the same party. Perhaps a better implementation might be to get a large list of inbound campaign (telemarketing not political) numbers and allow you to sign up to call those which you select from a list, if enough people do this it might drive down the profitability of such call centers. Personally since I almost never give out my home n
  • by ShavedOrangutan (1930630) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:25PM (#38285624)
    Don't forget who's in charge.
  • by cupantae (1304123) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (llienoram)> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:28PM (#38285662)

    Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you've got the power inside you right now.
    So, use it! And send one dollar to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield.
    Don't delay, eternal happiness is just a dollar away.

  • Where's the all of the above option here...

  • Combine this with an ideological movement group, and twitter/facebook, and hilarity ensues...until it's banned.

  • Time to harass some elected officials in my new state of North Carolina.

    "Governor Perdue, why did you sign a bill, written by Time Warner lobbyists, which effectively banned municipal broadband in North Carolina?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @06:54PM (#38285900)

    ...you're just making the staffers' lives miserable. The ones that sometimes struggle to survive in the DC area due to the cost of living if they're new. The ones with 4 roommates and 2 other jobs. You won't affect your representative, but you will be a jerk. Congratulations.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:16PM (#38286092)

      you might as well say the protesters in a dictactorship shouldn't protest because they will not affect the dictator, they will just make the life of police and military
      miserable because they are the ones that have to shoot them

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Considering that the staffers actually write the text of most bills, and considering what a lot of crap has come down the legislative pike in recent years... Serves 'em right.

    • by Indy1 (99447)

      Fuck em. If they decide to be whores for a bunch of vote buying fascists and communists, that's their problem, not mine.

      They can get a real job doing something useful for a change.

  • I haven't gotten one of these lately, but I did a while back get a political call that was very annoying. I hung up and the phone rang again continuing with the message. I hung up again, and it called me back. This was like 6-10 years ago I think. That can't be kosher..
  • Expensive.
  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:47PM (#38286324) Homepage

    A while back I donated money to the ACLU. I thought it would go towards defending civil liberties, but it turned out my donation was used to pay a company to repeatedly call me and ask for more money.

    After a few hours of research, I found the private home phone number of their CEO. A few days worth of repeatedly calling him and hanging up got my number off their list forever.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:54PM (#38286378)

      A while back I donated money to the ACLU. I thought it would go towards defending civil liberties, but it turned out my donation was used to pay a company to repeatedly call me and ask for more money.

      THIS.

      That's exactly why I am loathe to donate to any charity. I just don't know what else they will do with the transactional information and its bullshit that I should even have to worry about it. I only give cash to places I can walk in to. The EFF is happy to take walk in cash donations, BTW.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @01:38AM (#38288282) Homepage Journal

        >>I only give cash to places I can walk in to. The EFF is happy to take walk in cash donations, BTW.

        While donating to the EFF gets you on their spam list, their spam is actually worth reading most of the time.

  • Reverse psychology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Insightfill (554828) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:52PM (#38286356) Homepage

    Starting in about the 2004 election, the tactics of the local election robocalls changed quite a bit. The call would start out with a line like: "Hi! I'd like to talk to you about candidate Mark Smith..."

    At that point, you'd hang up thinking "Damn Mark Smith!" BUT: what you didn't know was that a few more minutes into the call, you'd discover that the call was sponsored by Mark's opponent, and if you had stayed on long enough, you would have heard about Mark's failings and how good his opponent was.

    If you were on the fence before the call, you SURE weren't going to vote for Mark after a dozen of THOSE calls.

    The "R"s used this a LOT in 2004, and it has picked up every year since then.

    Slime.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @07:58PM (#38286414) Homepage

    Just this past summer the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a union could be held liable under computer hacking laws (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) for doing exactly this -- using a combination of auto-dialing and member phone calls to protest an action, and thus filling up the business' voicemail and making the lines unavailable for a period of time:

    http://computerfraud.us/articles/can-a-labor-union-be-sued-under-the-computer-fraud-and-abuse-act-for-spamming-an-employer%E2%80%99s-voice-and-email-systems [computerfraud.us]

  • And it needs to be annoying both in destination and time of day.

  • by junglebeast (1497399) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @08:37PM (#38286760)

    While I am ALL for bombarding our sometimes misguided, uninformed or overzealous congressmen with public opinion...I have a fear that giving people the ability to set up automated calling in this fashion would just overwhelm their call centers to the point where they just stop picking up the phone and listening to the public at all.

  • So now how can we expand this marvelous service to include pollsters, banks, realtors, obnoxious sales people, wall street brokers, anybody with a "good deal", scammers and my cousin Freddie who just can't figure out that some people actually *sleep* at night?

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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