How Politicians Leverage Text Messaging for the Elections

A warning on few fraudulent text messages claim there have been changes to polling places was issued by The Oklahoma State Election Board. A male escort service owns the number from whom the text came.

Person using a smartphone

 

This kind of incident is not new. In 2018, a period of time prior to the midterms, Monroe County in Michigan warned of texts that falsely claimed that several voters’ absentee ballots remained “outstanding”.

With just over 234 million eligible voters, most Americans have received a couple, and people in swing states or in pivotal voting groups have gotten clobbered with a complete inundation. The info is quite scarce, but political texts weren’t as popular during the last presidential election. A replacement class of tools that leave mass, personalized texting are developed within the last four years that seek to take advantage of gaps in communications and disclosure laws.

Though it is simple to assume the texts are annoying and fairly useless, new research out of the middle for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin paints a far darker and meaningful picture of the trend.

Automated and personalized disinformation

On the day of Florida’s election back in August, residents of the 19th dominion received text messages falsely claiming that Byron Donalds, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives within the primary, had dropped out of the election. The Donalds campaign placed blame on an opposing Republican, who had employed a conservative political consultant who had been accused of an analogous tactic when he worked on Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid. The study found that while both political sides are using various kinds of peer-to-peer messaging to contact potential voters, the disinformation campaigns that the researchers identified came from right-wing operators, as in Donald’s case.

The reason some contact these tactics are straightforward: Using text messages to broadcast information, whether true or false, is very effective. Political texts get opened anywhere from 70-98% of the time, which is significantly above email open rates or answers to phone calls.

The study showed that political groups actually shall enter into dialogues with users via text, during which responses are chronicled and wont to build a good more data-rich profile of the person. It also recognized that the detection of disinformation messages relies solely on recipients reporting the texts to official channels—and that independent monitoring of the data sent by text is almost impossible.

What initially appears to be one-to-one communication may of course be one-to-many, however. Prominent texting companies like GetThru, Hustle, Opn Sesame, and Rumbleup have created functions that allow campaigns to send vast numbers of texts that appear to be personalized.

 

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Text your friends

An important nuance of direct messaging is that intimacy and trust in-built. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns have developed apps that arouse access to your contacts, and their goal is to know the networks of users and draw on existing relationships to push information about their candidate. The Biden campaign provides users of their Vote Joe app with a script that they will tweak to text their own contacts, for instance. The result is a network of micro-influencers who can use campaign-created language and priorities to steer friends and families behind closed doors.

The report says that the mix of texting, relational organizing, and data-centric campaigning creates “mass-scaled, highly organized messaging from a source that’s able to leverage established rapport with the intended targets in ways in which are poised to become increasingly invasive.”

Overseas, if this happens in a country like Korea, politicians might even use sites like https://autobahnsms.net to send SMS internationally.

The loophole game

Text messages currently exploit a loophole with the Federal commission which implies they don’t need to be sent with typical political disclosures or attached to identity The source of texts is obscured even further when the numbers used to belong to texting companies or subcontractors, instead of the sponsoring party. But this, in step with the report, is often supported by an outdated definition of texting that assumes texts are low-volume and acquire sent between individuals, instead of high volume from companies or organizations.

The good news is that regulation about how political groups can use this type of messaging is anticipated. The bad news is that political groups are already planning for methods around a crackdown by experimenting with push notifications—potentially using Wallet passes, the systems for storing digital assets.