AT&T Text Spams Customers Promoting American Idol; Insists It's Not Spam

from the redefining-spam dept

For the most part, mobile operators have been good about trying to prevent SMS text spam, but it appears that AT&T has gone in the other direction. It's actually spamming people. Apparently it sent a text message promoting the TV show American Idol to anyone who had voted in past American Idol contests or anyone that AT&T considered to be a "heavy texter." I can almost (but not quite) understand contacting former voters. But randomly targeting other "heavy texters" is simply pure spam.

But that's not the way AT&T sees it. In a statement that entirely redefines spam, a spokesperson said that it wasn't spam because they didn't charge people to receive the message. He also claimed it was no problem because people could opt-out of future messages. This shows an incredible (but all too typical for AT&T) tone deafness to the issue. Email spam is already quite annoying. But text messaging spam takes it to an entirely more ridiculous level by proactively interrupting what a person is doing, no matter where they are. At least email spam can be compartmentalized to when you're actually checking your email (and, these days, can be pretty effectively filtered). Text messaging is a lot more intrusive, and for AT&T to claim that this is somehow "okay" because the TV show is "built on texting," is simply ridiculous.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Hmm, I've voted in past American Idols, and I text quite a bit, and AT&T is my provider.

    Perhaps I've managed to dodge a bullet?

     

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  2.  
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    Twinrova, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 3:19pm

    Texting: The "new" internet.

    This is no different than all those damn "AT&T Free Tip" messages I continually receive.

    Opt out? Sure, if you turn off all text messaging capabilities.

    Once again, I've given a chance to a "new" company only to get screwed over.

    Here, AT&T. Let me bend over for you so it's easier to extract your payment, loaded with over $12 of inexcusable fees.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    "to anyone who had voted in past American Idol contests or anyone that AT&T considered to be a "heavy texter."

    That's actually not true. I have no text plan and they spammed me too.

     

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  4.  
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    TasMot, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:01pm

    Even if you opt out of all txting

    We are on AT&T and they were charging us to send us their stupid messages. So, we opted out of all texting, over and over again (we've had to opt out of all texting 3 times now). I wonder when this crap will start showing up.

     

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  5.  
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    Denny Ferrassoli, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:35pm

    Me too

    I received this SPAM from AT&T. I have never voted or watched American Idol. I also don't text much. I was honestly surprised to see that the text came from AT&T because we've all seen our share of spam and this was no different.

     

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  6.  
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    iphone newbie, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:36pm

    I am neither a heavy texter nor have I ever even seen America Idle, yet I rec'd the spam.....on top of no bars in more places

     

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  7.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:44pm

    Huh

    What's odd about this is that, although I'm an AT&T customer, I haven't seen any of this. Neither has my SO. I HAVE seen the celebrities I follow bitch about it, though. Both Felicia Day and John Hodgman were twittering about it the other day.

    Maybe they figured that only pissing off semi/famous people would work for them somehow? I dunno.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    I am an AT&T customer, I have NEVER voted on "American Idol" (or even watched it for more than 15 consecutive seconds) and have another service I use for 100% of my SMS use.

    I received one of those unsolicited text spams today on my AT&T phone. If AT&T would like to propose that they are not charging me for their advertisements, I would like to propose they offer me my cellular service for free. I'm not charging THEM for my use of MY phone, either. I just might, however.

     

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  9.  
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    rich gossweiler, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:53pm

    spam

    I received the spam and I barely text and I've never voted on idol. I am famous but only in my own mind. I guess I can forward it to make some of my friends famous...

     

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  10.  
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    shmengie, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:53pm

    Re:

    @phillip: duly noted. we apologize for the oversight. we'll make sure you get 2 spams next time.

    love,

    att

     

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  11.  
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    dragunkat, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    AT&T

    I don't even have texting on my phone, and I have never voted on American Idol, and I got it.
    I get spammed by AT&T on a regular basis.
    BTW AT&T, Email spam is also free, but that doesn't mean we like it.

     

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  12.  
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    Beefcake, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:12pm

    Liars

    The definition of "heavy texter" must be fewer than 10 per month. That's about my level of text-use, I've never even watched (shudder) that show; but I got the text.

    I was annoyed, and did not see how to opt out of it. I pay for the service. If I'm dumb and get my phone on some text-spam list, fine. But the company I pay too much money to every month should absolutely not be inflicting this on my unsubsidized phone.

    And then they have the nerve to outright lie about it.

     

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  13.  
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    ToySouljah, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Hmmm, I didn't get this text. Does it matter if you were originally with Cingular and then got switched to AT&T when they merged? I have the unlimited texting so it didn't really matter if I was sent it or not, but just curious as to why some people got it and some didn't.

     

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  14.  
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    Avatar28, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    no charge = not spam?

    So, I guess if we signed up AT&T's executives (and board of directors for good measure) onto every marketing mailing list out there, that would be okay. I mean, they wouldn't actually be getting spam, right? It's not like they were charged for it so by their definition it isn't spam.

     

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  15.  
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    MrScott, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:39pm

    Sprint SPAMS also

    AT&T people, don't feel like you've been unfairly treated. I've had Sprint service for over four years, and I get the "Free Sprint Message" that claims not to count against your allotment of messages a month, advertising their NFL subscription plan, or "Your contract is now up and we've got a deal for you" (but not in those words) type of messages often.

    But you would think that Sprint's system would be smart enough to know that you can't get Sprint TV without a multimedia phone first, but I get those messages too. Um, hello Sprint! DUH! You can't get TV on a non-multimedia phone! It's just a phone with internet capabilities and some text messages included.

    But, since they offer a link in the message to "unsubscribe" to those messages, I click the link to do so, THEN I get another message back in a few minutes asking if I REALLY want to not get these type of messages again. (so to speak) Well, YEAH! I clicked the link in the message. DUH! THEN I get yet another message from them just to let me know that I won't be getting these type of messages anymore. Thank GOD, because I'm ready to throw the phone against the sidewalk just to shut it up from ringing several times just so I can read their spam.

    Don't feel bad AT&T people. We (at other carriers) are getting spam too, it's just in other forms.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    ATT Horse Hockey

    Oh - newsflash
    It's ok because you are not charged for it.
    That is the lamest excuse yet this year.
    How about I sent their board of directors a box full of horse shit - it would be ok because I did not charge them for it.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 6:47pm

    Re: ATT Horse Hockey

    Even better, place a horse head in their bed while they sleep.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    collin., Jan 14th, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    horse feces?

    i have a unicel plan and i get zero spam. unicel is a small cellular company in the northern midwest that just bought by verizon however so i'm sure the spam is soon to come. i hated sprint's spam.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Patrick Star, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 1:52am

    Big boys and Girls control our spam

    I want to just give this food for thought.
    The people that control your money and print it also want to control your spam. Notice how Microsoft and yahoo were the big players to get rid of spam. Then what happened?
    Notice how all the big players are all trying to control everything we search and that leads to what we buy.
    ATT (I have them), will not stop their spam. See, its their ball park and they only want you to buy what they profit on.
    This is a little abstract but not far from the truth.
    Wasn't the internet supposed to be FREE? ITs all about taking your money. The big players are trying to control the whole battle field. ATT, yahoo, google, and microsoft - all them are like "appointed" to be the spam police. Instead what happened- is they decided only they can spam you. I spent almost a year asking them to stop calling me, sending me email trying to sell me. The emails never stopped. They tried to tell me that they can- even though I said stop. If I had a choice, I wouldn't use them.
    So, its either DSL and spam, or no internet at all here.
    The Games over. Now please forward this to the big boys and have them pretend this isn't happening.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Well Brain, what are we going to do today ?
    Why take over the world of course Pinky.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Simple solution, often over-looked, opt-in, not opt-out.

    Without explicitly /asking/ for the text, it would be considered spam and should legally be treated as such, same with unsolicited phone calls or faxes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: no charge = not spam?

    So, I guess if we signed up AT&T's executives (and board of directors for good measure) onto every marketing mailing list out there, that would be okay.
    Good luck getting their email addresses in the first place. But even if you did, they probably have "people" that filter their incoming messages for them. What, you don't have "people?" Then get some!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    Simple solution, often over-looked, opt-in, not opt-out.

    I think you're confusing "over-looked" with "rejected" (by AT&T and others).

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Janet Altman, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    It is spam certainly. Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where digital security could effortlessly keep step with technological advances. But, let's face it. It's going to have to take not only work and effort but also user buy in.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    aman, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Sprint SPAMS also

    You have to enroll at Sprint, they don't spam.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    K Black, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Opting out

    You cannot turn off text messaging abilities and still block YOUR carrier from texting you. Try it, you'll see. AT&T will text you even if you don't have a text package, or refused text setup at sign on. Doesn't matter. They will spam you anyway. Simple advice, change carriers. Verizon has yet to send me ANY spam from ANYONE EVER.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Lori, Jan 20th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    att own spam

    I keep getting "free" spam from ATT. DESPITE opting out several times?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Sean, Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    While I understand your point, I also feel like a cellphone company using the preferred medium of communication for this show to communicate more show is coming, well, is very apropo according to this blog - they are using a new medium for advertising, using the new market forces for their marketing.

    I understand your point, and I am glad I didn't get one, but you can probably understand why they did this.

    And is texting all that disruptive to your life, really? You kind of play it up as being very obtrusive in your article - come on, it's a text, it's clearly not something that is obtrusive since texts are sent and received during meetings and classes - how can it be obtrusive if texts can be sent and received unbeknownst to those around?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Sean, Jan 22nd, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    While I understand your point, I also feel like a cellphone company using the preferred medium of communication for this show to communicate more show is coming, well, is very apropo according to this blog - they are using a new medium for advertising, using the new market forces for their marketing.

    I understand your point, and I am glad I didn't get one, but you can probably understand why they did this.

    And is texting all that disruptive to your life, really? You kind of play it up as being very obtrusive in your article - come on, it's a text, it's clearly not something that is obtrusive since texts are sent and received during meetings and classes - how can it be obtrusive if texts can be sent and received unbeknownst to those around?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    BLURP... pickles, May 19th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    REALLY?!?

    Really, you are getting this worked up about a text? Most of you just look at the text and delete it, right? Yes I'm right! (notice I said most, so you can't yell at me for that!) Sign up for Verizon, or T-Mobile, My friend has verizon and I have t-mobile and neither of us has EVER gotten spam! The only time I got a text from the company was them telling me that I cancelled a callertunes account! And I asked them to send it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 3:58am

    it isnt spam, your feelings about it may be different, but are not relevant to whether it IS spam, bet somewhere in the TOS, EULA, signed contract etc... you AGREED to receive messages from them,

    the internet was NEVER about free, how do you think you get on the internet, you have to pay or connect to someone who has paid, to infrastructure that has to be paid for and paid to maintain it, so you can get on the net and get "Free" things, lol, what utopia you must live in, where everything is free

    QQ
    cry more
    your tears fuel me

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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