Editor’s Note: Just my opinion. But when have I ever been wrong? Plus this is common sense.
So a couple of hacks apparently bought lists of phone numbers belonging to members of communities of color and blasted them with calls advising that if they tried to vote by mail their personal information would be used to track down old warrants and credit card debt.
Totally, brazenly, ridiculous. Lies. And lies designed specifically to suppress the vote of a specific group of folks.
But this conduct was (almost) perfectly legal. We have zero functional laws protecting votes from false statements in this country. We just accept that politicians–and their designees and sycophants–will lie to us, as if that’s ok. As if it isn’t the worst violation of the public trust that there is.
But I’m not necessarily taking aim at the campaign system in this nation–although there’s plenty to aim at–rather I’m reminding everyone that the only reason that the fellas in the forgoing example were hammered for $5MM by the FCC–the Baron wrote about way before any other law firm— is that they were using prerecorded calls to send their message to cell phones without express consent. The content of their calls had nothing to do with it. Their intent to keep a block of voters on the sidelines didn’t matter.
These democracy-undermining election-meddling scallywags violated the TCPA–and that’s why what they did was illegal.
Think about that.
If these same clowns had engaged in their same nonsense using text messages or live voice calls they very likely would have gotten away with it. Under current law you can literally engineer a mass fraud-by-phone/text voter suppression system that is perfectly legal under federal law.
Isn’t it absurd that it was the FCC–as opposed to the DOJ, or the FEC–that had to hit these guys? And isn’t it even more absurd that the FCC was only empowered to do so because they were complete boneheads that stumbled into the TCPA and not because, you know, they were intentionally trying to cripple democracy through fraud?
I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again. Congress needs to act to regulate CONTENT directly and not rely on the fiction of regulating technology to prevent scam robocalls. Good guys get sued when technology is regulated. Bad guys get away with high crimes when content isn’t regulated. And the First Amendment absolutely permits regulation that bans lies via any mode of communication.
In fact the bill I propose would be waaaay more constitutional than the current TCPA (which isn’t.)
As a reminder–the current TCPA purports to regulate calling technology neutrally but it is actually riddled with content-specific exemptions because the underlying restriction is overly broad. The Supreme Court has already taken the first step down the path of striking down the entire thing. It will not survive much longer–and I’m going to make sure of that.
Take it from the guy who is working hard to finally kill the (totally unconstitutional) TCPA in its current form. A replacement bill is needed. And I’ve already laid out what the new law needs to look like.
Its time to get serious Congress. We need better protections against robocalls in this country–and regulating technology instead of content is a dead stick. Time to go after the real bad guys.
Because next time, they might not be such boneheads.