After cellphone users reported a series of unsolicited anti-Obama text messages Tuesday night, some of which derided the President’s record on LGBT issues, the Human Rights Campaign is calling for a federal investigation of the conservative telecommunications company behind them.
Some recipients of the anonymous texts tweeted screenshots with messages like: “Re-electing Obama puts Medicare at risk”; “Obama is using your tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions. Is that right?”; and “Stop Obama from forcing gay marriage on the states. Your vote is your voice.”
According to Buzzfeed‘s Chris Geidner, the company in question, ccAdvertising, has not admitted to sending the texts, although the dummy websites used to send the messages were registered to ccAdvertising executives. One exec in particular, Gabe Joseph, is reportedly known for using questionable tactics.
Sending unsolicited emails in the form of SMS text messages via web domains – rather than phone numbers – circumvents Federal Communications Commission regulations. However, the HRC is charging that ccAdvertising defrauded cellphone users, as stated in the letter from HRC general counsel Robert Falk:
[T]he [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] prohibits any person within the United States to use a telecommunications service “to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading caller-identification information with the intent to defraud [or] cause harm.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(e)(1). By disguising the sender of the text messages as “[email protected],” ccAdvertising knowingly and willfully caused the caller-identification service to transmit misleading caller-identification information in an attempt to defraud and harm gay-rights advocates.
“It’s unsurprising that our opponents are employing such underhanded tactics and trying to attack equality from behind shrouds of secrecy,” HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz said in a statement. “HRC is filing a complaint with the FCC so that these types of organizations know there are consequences for their actions. It’s unacceptable to launch these types of despicable attacks from dark corners, and it’s incredibly irresponsible to send out unsolicited messages to people who have no desire to receive this type of vitriol.”