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Robocall

Robocall

[roh-boh-kawl]
Robocall is American pejorative jargon for an automated telemarketing phone call which uses both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered recorded message. The implication is that a "robocall" resembles a telephone call from a robot.

Robocalls are made by all political parties in the United States, as well as unaffiliated campaigns, 527 organizations, Unions, and individual citizens. Robo calls are exempt from the Federal Do Not Call Registry

The Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) regulates robocalls. While political calls are exempt from Federal regulations, all calls, irrespective of whether they are political in nature, must do two things to be considered legal. The federal law is clear in requiring all telephone calls using pre-recorded messages to identify who is initiating the calls and include a telephone number or address to reach them. Attorney General Jay Nixon of Missouri has vowed to enforce this section of the TCPA

Some states (23 according to DMNews) have laws that distinguish political robocalls from other kinds of political telemarketing. For example, in Indiana and North Dakota, automated telemarketing calls are illegal. In New Hampshire, political robocalls are allowed — except when the recipient is in the National Do Not Call Registry. Many states require the disclosure of who paid for the call, often requiring such notice be recorded in the candidate's own voice.

Robocalls were made during the 2008 North Carolina Democratic primary, targeting African-american voters in the days leading up to the primary in late April 2008, which essentially told registered voters that they were not registered. According to NPR and Facing South, these calls were made by the organization "Women's Voices Women Vote." Voters and watchdog groups complained that it was a turnout-suppression effort, and the state Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered them to stop making the calls. It should be noted, that WVWV did stop the calls and no further legal action was taken in North Carolina.

California Public Utilities Commission Code sections 2871-2876 holds political campaigns to the same rules as other organizations or businesses using "robo-calls." Here are the guidelines: 1. A "live" person must come on the line before the recording to identify the nature of the call and the organization behind it. 2. The recipient of the call must consent to allowing the recording to be played. 3. The call must be disconnected from the telephone line as soon as the message is over or the recipient hangs up, whichever comes first.

FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. However, political groups are excluded from the definition of telemarketer and calls from or on behalf of political organizations are still permitted.

California Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)introduced the Federal Robocall Privacy Act in February of 2008 at hearing that she held at the US Senate. The Act, introduced in a bi-partisan and bi-cameral manner, proposes to: 1) Limit robo calls to no more than 2 a day by any one candidate, 2) mandate that candidates have accurate caller ID numbers displayed, 3) mandate that the disclosure of who is paying for the call occur at the start of the call, rather than at the end of the call, 4) mandate that the time of the call occur not before 8 AM or after 9 PM.

Shaun Dakin, CEO of Citizens for Civil Discourse , testified at the hearing and described how robo calls impact the lives of voters accross the nation He also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post calling for a Voter Privacy Bill of Rights in which all voters would have the right to opt-out of political robocalls if they did not wish to receive them.

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