FORNEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Dale Warner was at work when he heard the text message alert on his phone.
“I only give out my cell phone number to close friends and family, so I stopped to check my phone,” he said.
This time the text was from an unfamiliar number with a message from a political candidate running for a local office.
Warner said he was annoyed. “If they want to email me something, I’ll deal with that on my time but this is jerking me from what I am doing for a political ad in the middle of the day,” he said.
Leading up to the March 3 primaries, Warner, like many voters, has received a number unsolicited campaign text messages.
Campaigns view text messages as a cheap and effective way to communicate with potential voters. The cost to send a text message ranges between 5 and 10 cents, according to companies that personalize group text messages.
Plus, studies show more than 90% of text messages are read – a much higher read rate than emails and direct mail flyers.
“If you want to reach perspective voters, the best way to do that is on their cellphones,” said Daniel Souweine, the CEO and founder of GetThru.
GetThru is one of a handful of growing tech companies specializing in what’s known as peer-to-peer texting.
The Northern California based company is currently working with more than 1,000 campaigns across the country.
With the company’s software, campaign volunteers can send out thousands of messages an hour but Sourweine said it does not violate federal rules about bulk texting because a real person is sending each messages.
“It’s definitely incredibly efficient compared to what you could do without the software but it is clearly not an automotive dialer because each message is sent one by one,” explained Sourweine. “What’s so powerful about it is there is a real back and forth between an actual person on both ends of the lines.”
Neil Sobol, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law, said peer-to-peer texting is a gray area when it comes to Federal Communication Commission’s rules on bulk texting.
While technically a person sends each text messages individually, Sobol said consumer advocates argue peer-to-peer texting violates the spirit of the federal rule that is intended to protect consumers from unsolicited text messages.
In 2018, the FCC was asked to clarify the rule on peer-to-peer texting. It still has not made a decision.
“Technology sometimes goes beyond the law and the law has to catch up to that technology. I think this is one of those areas,” Sobol said.
While the use of text messaging by campaigns will likely increase during the general election season, candidates may also have to consider potential backlash from voters who find political text messages to be a nuisance.
“The text message did get through but it got through in a negative way,” said Warner. “If I were to see the candidate whose campaign sent me a text message, I would tell them to stop. It was unwelcomed.”
Here’s how to stop unsolicited political text messages:
- Reply “STOP” to an unsolicited campaign text message
However, messages will only stop from that single campaign. To stop all the unwanted messages potential voters have to reply to each campaign individually.