Protecting Consumers from Spam Texts

July 17, 2020: Each election year we see political campaigns engaging voters in innovative ways, and text messaging has become one of the key campaign tools for this cycle. Text messaging can be a very powerful and effective way to organize, inform and engage voters, but only if used the right way. Billions of texts will be sent from political campaigns of both parties, and we are increasingly hearing from customers that they are getting texts they didn’t ask to receive.

Messaging is a great way to reach any audience, including potential voters. This isn’t by accident. The wireless community, which includes providers, aggregators, cloud services, security vendors, registrars and other partners, work hard every day to keep the text environment spam-free. Because of these efforts, less than 3% of your text messages are spam—compared to roughly half of emails.

The text messaging platform is so powerful because consumers have choice and control over their experience. This consumer-first principle is built into how the industry manages the platform, as well as the guidelines created for its use by all non-consumer senders, including political campaigns, their partners and their vendors. We listen to our customers as to what they want to receive, and Morning Consult confirms what we hear every day from consumers—that political texts are often viewed by consumers as a nuisance or spam. This is one area of actual bipartisanship—74% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats. Spam is spam whether it’s an unwanted text from a bank, a concert promoter or a campaign.

It’s no surprise that messaging vendors are aggressively pitching political campaigns on the value of text messaging (while charging campaigns on a per-text basis) because, as consumers, we all open and read our text messages. And, there are of course millions of consumers that want to hear from candidates and campaigns, and it is important campaigns can use text messages to reach those consumers. It is great to see candidates want to use our platform to reach voters, as long as they do so in a responsible manner.

Consumers have a rightful expectation that they will not receive unwanted texts. Consumers and campaigns who want to exchange text messages can help all of us keep this platform spam-free by following some commonsense best practices. Our Messaging Principles and Best Practices recommend that non-consumer text message senders, like businesses, charities and political campaigns, seek to make sure that consumers are only receiving the text messages they want.

Senders should adopt consumer-centric practices, such as communicating only with consumers who have opted-in, telling consumers how to opt-out—by replying “STOP,” for example—honoring those opt-out requests, and establishing clear privacy and security policies and practices. These best practices are designed to apply the same standards and same consumer protections regardless of whether the sender or the customer is an airline or a bank, a hospital or a college, a Republican or a Democrat.

Consumers have a rightful expectation that they will not receive unwanted texts. Consumers and campaigns who want to exchange text messages can help all of us keep this platform spam-free by following some commonsense best practices.

Wireless providers, aggregators and the many other companies involved in routing, sending and transferring of text messages work to stop unlawful and unwanted spam from reaching consumers by deploying measures like filtering software and machine learning tools. It’s a team effort, and your complaints help too in identifying unwanted texts. It takes an entire community to keep your text inbox free of spam, and the harmful fraud and phishing that can too often come with it.

Over 4 in 5 Americans want the whole wireless industry to ensure that any message sender adheres to our guidelines and best practices by getting consumers’ consent before sending a text. That’s exactly what we seek to do for wireless consumers. This is also the best way to ensure important campaign information gets to the voters that desire it, while retaining the spam-free environment we all want as consumers.

And for consumers, when providing your phone number make sure you know what type of communication you are opting in to help protect against unwanted texts or calls. And if you receive a text you did not want, you can simply respond “STOP” and make sure that your wireless provider knows about it by sending it to 7726 (SPAM). And, don’t forget to vote on November 3rd!

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