As noted by several commenters here on this subject, the number of complaints received by Elections Canada about automated phone calls increased exponentially during the last election – from a few hundred in previous years to more than 31,000 in 2011. Whatever the cause involved, something awry must have precipitated that reaction…
I think it safe to assume most people agree that telemarketing is one of THE most offensive and perniciously annoying intrusions into our private lives. As I see it, automated telemarketing is little more than another form of unwanted SPAM – only without the ability to effectively filter it out of existence. Recognizing this fact, governments on both sides of the border have in recent years made some feeble attempts to restrain the practice by introducing such things as “opt-out” registries. Unsurprisingly, exemptions to these “Do Not Call” registries, however, have been carved out for political groups making automated calls.
Why is that? It’s not like the messages have any significantly meaningful purpose. In fact, for the most part, all they do is deliver negative advertising via the phone, or in the worst case, erroneously misleading information to suppress voter participation.
Perhaps the best thing that could emerge from the whole “robo-fraud” scandal would be an outright ban on the practice of automated political telemarketing altogether. Would anyone at all miss being annoyed by political telemarketing calls in future?
Update: In the likely event that robo-calls won’t be banned altogether, here’s a neat idea currently being developed by a company in the U.S.