Unsolicited Political Campaigns
On the 30th September – many Australians received an unsolicited text from ‘YesEquality’ which read:
“The Marriage Equality Survey forms have arrived! Help make history and vote YES for a fairer Australia. VoteYes.org.au”
As you can see from the image to the left, one disgruntled recipient made their feelings felt, but to no avail.
Was this an Invasion of Privacy?
According to the SPAM Act 2003, the answer is NO.
Registered Charities, Registered Political Parties and Educational Institutions are exempt from the Act.
See an excerpt from the Act below:
“Registered charities, registered political parties and educational institutions are exempt from the Act. If an organisation falls into one of these categories, then any commercial electronic messages it sends are exempt from the Act’s consent and unsubscribe conditions if, and only if, the messages relate to goods or services supplied by the organisation that authorised the message. Note that such messages must still comply with the identified condition of the Act.”
Complaints against the campaign organisers Equality Campaign were dismissed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) due to the legal loophole.
Is this just the beginning of election spamming by political parties?
How Did They Get My Number?
As per the disgruntled message above, the question remained, ‘how were the numbers obtained’?
The official line from campaign organisers was that the numbers were randomly generated and no database had been sought.
Random Number Generator?
We do not believe so. This was more like a campaign targeted to all possible mobile numbers with certain mobile number ranges.
As an industry expert and leader in the SMS gateway technology industry, we have never heard of such a campaign being done in the past.
We can only speculate that a major deal was done at a wholesale level to target a major proportion of the population and messages sent directly.
It would have been an incredibly expensive exercise.
Does it Pass the Pub Test?
To this end, we believe the answer is no.
Just because an organisation of any description has a legal exception doesn’t mean they have a right to invade someone’s privacy. Especially if you cannot provide a mechanism to respond or opt-out.
If a campaign organiser cannot handle complaints and responses, then it is akin to recipients feeling the same way. Do unto others…
A mobile phone is carried by most Australians, most of the time. The SMS inbox is one of the most personal and private communications environments we have.
Sending a political message into this protected environment is always going to be a risky proposition.
We can only speculate if such a campaign hinders or furthers the cause.
With no SMS reply mechanism for recipients, website click through numbers would be muddied by those wishing to respond in the negative (because of lack of response mechanism) and those in full support.
The Intelli Messaging Position
Our own position and policy with the use of our service is that our customers must not send unsolicited messages.
There is a great risk of negative reaction in the market. I do not know of any commercial enterprise that would be willing to take such a risk.
To witness such a campaign runs deep against our code of practice.
Our policy on running campaigns is that clients must have:
- recipient consent,
- an opt-out process and
- a call back option.
the latter two usually done with our voice and SMS activated numbers.
Responding to calls and texts to such a large audience would also be impracticable.
Furthermore, providing an ability to opt-out or unsubscribe to text messages is a decent thing to do.
One wonders whether exempted organisations will try this in the future. From our experience, the private sector do not take such risks.
Most of the time, they are concerned with Brand Damage and Reputational Harm.
Corporate marketing departments are generally very inflexible with ANYTHING that might potentially hurt their brand or image.
That is why we are trusted by some of the big name retailers.
Time will tell if we see political parties embrace this risk in the future.
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