Groups Worry New Text Message Spam Filters Aren't Being Built Transparently, Could Harm Legit Outreach Efforts
from the i-don't-trust-your-trust-score dept
As we noted recently, the wireless industry has been developing a new “trust score” to determine who is or isn’t worthy of being able to send text message spam. The system is being contemplated after the 2020 election saw no shortage of text messaging spam that wireless subscribers found it difficult — if not impossible — to properly opt out of. The problem: a growing roster of groups are worried about the transparency of the process, noting that the Milan-based company (Kaleyra) running this new “Campaign Registry” hasn’t been forthcoming or consistent when it comes to details of the system, launching in June.
Text messaging campaigns remain hugely effective, with 90 percent of text messages are read within 3 minutes. But a chorus of groups from Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood are growing increasingly worried that the overall system, dubbed 10DLC, could result in many of them losing their ability to engage in outreach:
“In recent weeks, a coalition of liberal and progressive advocacy groups have mounted a campaign to put the brakes on 10DLC, rejecting the characterization of their messages as spam and raising concerns that the blunt 10DLC rules will hamper one of their most effective organizing tools. The opaque registration and vetting process, the groups warn, could lead to discrimination against smaller organizations with less-established track records, as well as overwhelm them with new and higher fees.”
With companies like AT&T at the helm of decision making on the issue, you should be able to understand their concern given AT&T’s long, dodgy history. Particularly when it comes to the process being non-transparently hijacked to limit communications on issues not particularly near and dear to AT&T and friends hearts, like labor organizing:
“Though AT&T and T-Mobile claim 10DLC is intended to reduce unwanted text messages, these restrictions in actuality will quash grassroots advocacy, labor union organizing, and progressive movement building,? the letter states. ?We strongly urge AT&T and T-Mobile to reconsider the damage that 10DLC will cause. We are also calling on leaders in Washington to exercise your executive and legislative authority to defend citizen engagement and call on AT&T and T-Mobile to reverse these restrictions.”
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 is a dated piece of befuddling legislation that’s been interpreted to mean that you can’t send unsolicited text message spam en masse. But marketers and political campaigns have long wiggled around the restrictions via P2P text message efforts, which still let you send blanket text message campaigns — just somewhat individually via pre-scripted templates. These efforts were ramped up by the Sanders campaign, and were even more heavily embraced by the Trump campaign.
Ideally you’d like a government agency like the FCC or Congress to transparently develop rules in open collaboration with consumers, stakeholders, and experts adequately represented. Instead, you’ve got a coalition of private companies with dodgy track records working on non-transparent “trust scores” that could limit the impact and outreach of countless organizations, regardless of party. For example, if the trust score is dictated by arrest records, would that mean activist groups whose members are often arrested at peaceful protests would suddenly find themselves labeled too problematic to verify?
“While the details of the trust scoring system are not well understood, it?s been likened to running a credit score on each group. ?They could be looking at things like a group?s personal tax history, members? criminal histories, they could also be googling to find groups associated with people they deem unsavory,? said Don Calloway, founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, which uses peer-to-peer messaging to combat voter suppression. ?Grassroots orgs have members who get arrested all the time in peaceful protests.”
The fact that many of these groups don’t know how this trust score is being calculated just months before launch speaks for itself.
This being the wireless industry, there’s also the threat that they could view this entire system as yet another revenue model, unfairly saddling less affluent organizations with fees and surcharges they won’t be able to afford. As such, you can see how letting the wireless industry lead the show could result in its two major concerns (avoiding liability, generating revenue) driving most decision making processes. While it’s certainly possible many of these worst-case scenarios won’t come to pass, given the history of the telecom industry, and the total lack of regulatory oversight at the moment, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.