Updated: Dec 31, 2020
By Jim Dodge
I spoke with a woman yesterday after she came out of early voting. I said simply, “Would you mind if I ask you a few questions about political robocalls?” I let her know I was curious on how she dealt with all the anonymous robocalls. Being a data guy and researcher, I knew it was better to ask after she voted and had no reason to tell me anything other than the truth.
Quoting her, “I ignore them.” She went on to explain that if the caller does not identify themselves or who paid for the call right away, she doesn’t listen or pay attention to the message. Exactly right.
Given that robocalls are very cost effective for campaigns (under $.05 per), they aren’t going to stop anytime soon. Further, the technology makes it very easy for unscrupulous operators to do “spoofing.”
They can spoof the number so a call looks like its coming from your home town and they can spoof the caller ID for the same effect: make it more likely you will pick up the call or not be able to tell who is doing the call by tracing a real number.
A timely article on 28 Mar 2019 in the Wall Street Journal declares:
“The FCC has fined Robocallers $208 Million. It’s Collected $6,790.”
Unfortunately, I don’t see the federal government solving the problem of anonymous callers any time soon.
Two suggestions on how you might deal with anonymous calls.
First, if the caller won’t identify who it is right away, you should just ignore their “message.” More often than not the party behind the call is simply trying to mislead, misinform and misdirect. They are hiding behind the anonymity of the technology and attacking by saying whatever they want with no chance of being caught. Its an unscrupulous way to be part of a public discussion or wage a campaign. It assumes you are gullible.
Second, if you get an anonymous call and you do listen, ask yourself this: who benefits from an anonymous call against a given person or group? These calls are done for a reason, as mentioned above, often a bad one. Its pure political calculus. Someone obviously thinks they will gain by attacking another’s integrity or impugning a reputation with false information.
Once you decide who benefits, then ask are have simply denying being involved or are they taking the right step and denouncing the style and substance of the call? If not, you’ll have your answer on who is likely behind the call.
Robocalls are one of many ways that campaigns reach voters but like everything in life, how it’s done matters a great deal. Since we can’t stop the technology, we can hold the “beneficiaries” to account for the content. If we don’t know the caller because its anonymous, then start asking who benefits by hiding behind a negative message with no name…..