Ban Political “Robocalls” Outright!

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.

13 Comments

Filed under 2011 Canadian Election

13 responses to “Ban Political “Robocalls” Outright!

  1. Just over 1,000 complaints were made in the last election. The other 30,000 were contacts from the past week.

  2. sassy

    Unfortunately, robocalls probably won’t be going away anytime soon. I hate them with a passion, not only the ones that I pick up but also the ones that clutter up call answer messages. grrrrrrrrrr – and that is not limited to political parties only.

    In the US, a consumer can now robocall firms/politicians back

  3. The telephone opt-out list should include political parties and charities. I.e. there should be no exceptions to it. Yes the opt-out list isn’t that effective against orgs that don’t care if they get caught but one would hope that political parties wouldn’t want to be charged with calling people on the opt out list.

    hold that thought….

  4. CWTF

    Poor Dr.Dawg, how would the NDP exert free speech when an NDP member crosses over to the Liberals unless the NDP misdirect….

  5. Sassy: Thanks for the link!

  6. Shiner: Yes, you’re quite right. The huge majority of those complaints were made recently as the kafuffle over misleading robo-calls came to light in parliament and then the media. Perhaps before that, people weren’t aware that they actually had an avenue to complain or didn’t realize the significance of the call(s) they received at the time as maybe having been part of a widespread scheme of deliberate fraud.

  7. I can’t see how this will do anything other than fizzle out. People are paying attention now working on the assumption that this is a day away from breaking wide open… it isn’t. I’m impressed with the amount of discussion that’s taken place in the media thus far, but word seems to be filtering down from the Serious People that Responsible People should know that the Conservatives couldn’t possibly ever do anything wrong.

    One of the most fascinating things about new media, particularly something like twitter, is being able to see exactly where pundits and journalists take their cues from. Everybody wants to hang out with the cool kids, and that means regurgitating the view, no matter how stupid, held by the folks with the most “followers”. More and more we’re getting the kind of false balance that Krugman has spoken so much about down south.

    All that to say that the famously short attention span of the Canadian news media is stretched pretty thin right now, I have no idea how it could last the few years until EC’s report is tabled.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. The hue and cry over this will wear pretty thin absent solid evidence from the EC investigation. I say let them get on with their work and move on to something else. I hope that it doesn’t take “years” to get to the bottom of it, but in the meantime there are plenty of other fish to fry.

  9. Peter

    I agree this will fade soon, but at least part of the reason (again) is the flailing and mispunching of the Opposition and their followers. The robocalls are deeply offensive because of the contempt for voters they imply, and if the anti-Cons just ran with that as a political issue it might stick. Instead, all sorts of Harper-haters seem to be wrapped up in fantasies of Elections Canada or a court ( or maybe even the GG) nullifying dozens of elections or the PM and entire CPC executive driven to the guillotine in a tumbril for violating the Elections Act, something that would take years to resolve and a betting man would say might result in a few small-fry being fined. A lot of the left is still hung-up on the question of the legitimacy of the Cons and don’t seem to want to be told they will only be displaced if somebody else wins an election. Also, Red, have you noticed how ever since the election the NDP and Libs have all sorts or stuff to say about ethics and closure and democracy and and crime legislation and high-handed behaviour in Parliament, but hardly anything to say about the economy, which is why Harper is there and the issue that sustains him?

  10. Peter: With regards to the robocalls, I would totally agree that many of those (the Council for Canadians, for example) who apparently suffer from a severe case of HDS (Harper Derangement Syndrome) are attempting to take this “scandal” far beyond the bounds of legitimate outrage.

    As for your observation that the Opposition has scant things of meaningful purpose to say about the economy, again, I have to concur that they’ve had precious little of value to contribute to the discourse in this regard. On the other hand, there hasn’t been much in the way of substance offered up by the Harper Government either. Yes, they have Ed Fast scurrying about the globe trying to get Canada engaged in a web of dubious free trade agreements and they’ve hinted at certain austerity measures that may be coming down the pike, but there’s not exactly been a clearly defined economic agenda or road map to prosperity put forward by the Conservatives since the last election

  11. …hardly anything to say about the economy, which is why Harper is there and the issue that sustains him?

    By “why Harper is [in government]”, I take it you mean “still exploiting stale anger over Adscam [and the NEP, bien sur] whilst superintending circa mid-’70s federal indebtedness, stagnant growth, sluggish employment levels, falling wages, and struggling exports six years after taking over from a government whose nearly unprecedented fiscal successes were eclipsed by a sordid (and strictly provincially localised) corruption scandal.” I hope that’s what you mean; otherwise, you’re talking gibberish: it was the fortuitous third-party exposure of government corruption that propelled Harper into power, not any trenchant critique of or compelling vision for fiscal and trade policy. I fail to see why what was good enough for the CPC is beneath the Opposition, unless you privately hold the Opposition view that the CPC is inherently beneath contempt. I wouldn’t blame you: I often get the sense that Harper privately feels the same way. His self-loathing aura is almost as lurid and painful to behold as was Nixon’s.

    Speaking of which, I’m afraid you shall have to forgive the Opposition (and many Canadians) for caring so deeply about the government’s pan-national vote-riggging operation and subsequent comically bungled cover-up strategy (which now includes at least one unwillingly sacrificed lamb and one attempt by the prime minster to mislead the House). I’m sure there are matters more pressing than our democracy to jaw about in the Commons; there are, I am sure, a great many Pill-taking Canadian “sluts” for our so-con crypto-Republicans to rant about, for instance. There were, in 1974, a great many pressing issues for U.S. Congressional committees to put on their plates. Fossilized nose hair urgently required clipping at Mount Rushmore, for all I know, but that didn’t stop a clutch of bleeding-heart do-gooders from inquiring into whether their head of state had ordered or covered up the commission of a criminal offence in the pursuit of partisan advantage. It’s awfully tedious, I know, but democracies are funny that way: they are often (though not often enough) offended when their governments betray the very norms that endow them with their legitimacy. Suck it up.

  12. “Fossilized nose hair at Mount Rushmore”… LOL

  13. Craig Chamberlain

    Tax them into near oblivion with proceeds ear-marked for Cream Pie Fridays in the H of C.

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