Instant Call Blast Cannot Be Used For Voter Suppression

November 3, 2008

There have been a few articles posted about how Instant Call Blast’s website has the ability to be used as a tool for voter suppression because of the ease of sign up. However there has been some buzz lately as the November elections come to a close about political operatives devising schemes to deter voters from going to the polling station on Election Day. There have been many doomsday scenarios where these operatives could covertly use many different tools at their disposal to obtain their goal: complete chaos at the voting booth.

One “study” recently released by VotingIntegrity.org, an E.P.I.C. project, mentions Instant Call Blast by name in their “study” about voter suppression tactics. They say that the ease at which accounts can be approved, record a message, and have the message sent out to the target areas could give operatives the motive to complete their dastardly deeds. Without going into detail, this “study” points out that such a situation could be realized by using Instant Call Blaster (apparently the researchers missed the proper use of Instant Call Blast’s product name).

Although VotingIntegrity.org tries to remain objective while using Instant Call Blast as a source to further their “study,” the next couple paragraphs mentions vaguely the use of VOIP technology (Voice Over Internet Protocol) as an unregulated source that the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and VOIP’s relationship with suppression operatives negatively using such technology to further their goals. VotingIntegrity.org mentions that Instant Call Blast is a user of such VOIP technology inferring that somehow it helps with the proliferation of voter suppression calls by making a vague link.

Anthony Morelle spoke with Lilly Coney, one of the chief architects of this “study” and a member of E.P.I.C., briefly on Friday about the “study” and how they came to use Instant Call Blast in their “study.” She had said that her researchers came across the website among others (that she never named) and simply stated the facts. It is true that Instant Call Blast can have an account set up in minutes and have calls out in seconds. Instant Call Blast would like to point out that although there is truth to the information on the website, the ease of account set up is during normal business hours on Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM EST. Of course that is after Instant Call Blast performs a thorough background check on the potential client to make sure of their identity. So the definition of the term “seconds” really could mean 1 second to 240 seconds with respect to the company’s ethical business practices.

Instant Call Blast also listens to every message before it is sent out for content. Every customer is aware of this when they receive a Welcome Letter; detailed in the “How To Record A Call” PDF download. No call blast goes out without being heavily scrutinized. That could take seconds or a few minutes depending on the length of the message. The caller ID is checked for a working number so there is no “spoofing.”

All customers are aware upon sign up (usually during telephone conversations) that all calls go out with a working number and it has to be a number that they own or in control of. They are also aware of the penalties of “spoofing” their number could result in anything from termination to fines that may be levied upon Instant Call Blast. Each customer has to agree to those terms prior to the submission of every call blast.

Instant Call Blast has had these safeguards in place since it’s inception into the robocall industry. However the website carefully screens out potential clients that may want to use the website for personal gain or malice. There have been several attempts by potential clients to put out “revenge calls” or calls detailing a discretion about a particular person to an audience. Without such safeguards in place, Instant Call Blast would be no better than those in the industry who look the other way and collect a profit.

That is why Instant Call Blast has made it a point to maintain a level of ethics when conducting business. There are strict controls to the flow of information as well as our customer’s identities. The website has also made it a point to have nothing to do with the sale, resale, or collection of data used while in control of customer’s phone numbers. Instant Call Blast has adhered to all state and federal laws governing the use of prerecorded messaging, autodialer, and telemarketing. We continue to strive to set a standard of conduct throughout this industry.

Instant Call Blast eventually plans to be a part of an organization that certifies other Telecommunication and Information Technology companies so that they can be approved ethical businesses. Anthony Morelle, the founder of Antmore Technologies and owner of the Instant Call Blast website has said that, “in my limited experience in this industry from web developers, designers, domain registry companies, telecommunication/VOIP resellers; they have given me a vast understanding about the unethical behavior that exists and runs rampant. If left unchecked, it could destroy the credibility of those trying to do business ethically, but also bring heavy regulations and possibly law enforcement. The bad seeds in this industry outweigh the good and unfortunately every company gets grouped together.”

A great example of this mentality exists with VotingIntegrity.org and a few unmentionable media outlets. They believe that they can group all robocall companies together and just choose one out of a hat. Instant Call Blast is not the only web interfaced robocall website in the industry. Instant Call Blast is certainly not the only company to offer a quick response time. Yet because of the negative view of robocalls and telemarketing, it is safe to assume by the critics that one company is just the same as the other. So what is the harm of damaging a company’s reputation by naming them in a “study?”

Ignorance is also harmful. Not a single one of Instant Call Blast’s media critics ever called to speak with Anthony Morelle. Not a single one of them signed up to take a look at the service or ask questions about how it works. None of them actually used the service. Yet they seem to know everything there is to know by reading a couple pages from Instant Call Blast’s website. They also seem to know everything they need to know from reading a “study” and never questioning the validity of it’s content and taking it as canon. Just like cigarette companies conducted “studies” that stated that their products never caused cancer. Are we to believe what some news media outlets and organizations with their own agendas can write something and never be questioned? As good journalists, isn’t it your job to ask the tough questions?

Instant Call Blast has it’s own agenda. It wants to bring robocalls back to the mainstream. The technology is brand new and it should not be forced out by the likes of Shaun Dakin and his crusade against campaign robocalls. Dakin states on a blog that he even hates getting robocalls for lost pets in his neighborhood. Instant Call Blast argues that the technology can be used to geographically target neighborhoods for a variety of reasons such as lost pets, Amber Alerts, weather, school closings, construction, emergency notification for universities and cities. They can be used to alert patients about their upcoming checkups that would spur health prevention. They are being used currently to bring people together and reminding others of upcoming birthdays. Anthony Morelle replies, “there are people out there who don’t care for robocalls, but I see my website as a necessary tool in today’s world. I don’t know about anyone else, but Pet alerts are the same as Amber Alerts in my opinion because my pet is the same as a family member. I would want to know that someone was out there helping me look for my pet or my child. I guess there are people out there that don’t care about robocalls for missing family members. I am not one of them.”

VotingIntegrity.org should have read the entire Instant Call Blast website instead of cherry picking phrases to suit their agenda. Had they spoken with Morelle, they would know that Instant Call Blast is not like many of the other robocall companies listed on the Internet. Only a small portion of the website’s generated income deals with political clients. However truthful their “study” may be (how can you be so objective when it is called “E-Deceptive Campaign Practices Report”), the facts remain that it’s intention was to bring to light the supposed culprits and make them stand for their “robocall crimes” just because several other such companies have committed sins. Lilly Coney argued that because of what had happened in North Carolina with an organization called Women Voices Women Vote, all robocall companies should stand trial. Coney believed this so much that she kept repeating those events in North Carolina in a heated conversation with Morelle. When Morelle asked why didn’t VotingIntegrity.org list the offending robocall company that put out the calls in NC in their study instead of his website; Coney gave no answer. When Morelle asked how many other websites were used as examples of swift response robocall voter suppression tactics, she gave none despite authoring the study. **Instant Call Blast wants to make it clear that there are other companies that provide such services.**

After the events in North Carolina were investigated, it turns out that the message was sent to the wrong group of people and that the recipients of the message were never the intended targets. Women Voices Women Voters were fined $100,000 by North Carolina for various other failures regarding telecommunication state laws and the robocall company was never mentioned or fined for its involvement. Instant Call Blast would also like to point out that they don’t have any customers in North Carolina to date.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Instant Call Blast was unfairly targeted by the news media and VotingIntegrity.org. Whatever the intention of the “study” could have been, the reputation of Instant Call Blast has been tarnished. Just yesterday a potential customer called in to do business with Instant Call Blast, after taking the time to speak with Anthony Morelle, he came across the articles about Voter Suppression and Instant Call Blast. Although this was not a deciding factor for this client, it very well could be for many more. Morelle adds, “how do I explain my involvement with this “study” to potential government agencies when they perform a background check while competing with other companies for emergency notification contracts?” For the record, no one from VotingIntegrity.org asked Morelle for his permission to partake in their study or use Instant Call Blast’s trade name.

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Robocall Registry An Assault on 1st Amendment Rights

June 28, 2008

As I have read through the numerous blogs, articles, and podcasts regarding the political Do Not Call Registry, I begin to wonder “what are we doing to ourselves?” I mean we blame George W. Bush for eroding our personal freedoms in the name of public safety and fear. Some zealots come knocking on our door about a registry and you graciously sign away your freedoms.

What freedoms do you ask? How about your right to make robocalls into a Congressional District to poll voters about your political leaders ability to lead. Your rights to run a successful campaign with little or no money against an incumbent that may have a 6-7 figure war chest.

How is the common man supposed to compete with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? How many of us really have $10 Million that we can pull out of our bank accounts to pay for a presidential run? How about a Congressional run? Robocalls are a way to reach a large portion of the population with platform issues that can cover more ground than a knock at the door and a highly unorganized HQ campaign calling.

Thousands of Americans would rather give up this right because they are annoyed a few times a year? I still have to watch the commercials, but there isn’t an uproar over the vast amount of money being spent to annoy us for 30 seconds on television. Why don’t we ban commercials as well. Why don’t we ban mailers. Why don’t we ban people knocking at our door. Why don’t we ban lawn signs, bumper stickers, pins…heck why don’t we just ban candidates!

That’s where America is headed. One out of two eligible voters gets to the polls since the 1960’s. We may have seen a spike in a few presidential elections, but the Election of 2000 saw 50%. That is sad. In my county, it is 35%. One out of 3 people go to the polls in off-election years. Australia has it right because there is a fine associated with not voting so 95% turn out. New York State wants to make money, have them pass a Compulsory Voting Law. Then again we might see “real” politics happen and that would undo everything these 20+ year legislator office holding runs. They would actually have to follow through with campaign promises!

I find that the people that complain too much about the robocalls are really just a minority of people that cornered the market while no one was looking. States that are less populated are going to pass laws against robocalls because its cheaper to run a campaign. Try running a simple school board campaign in any number of suburbs of California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. We won’t see those registries pop up anywhere near those states because it’s not feasible to run campaigns there and legislators rely heavily on contacting the most people for the cheapest price!

While I applaud Shaun Dakin’s efforts to flood the market with articles, blogs, and interviews, its an uphill battle that he won’t win. You might have Indiana and a few other states locked down, but try your business in New York. I will laugh at you. Politics is big business here. Just to run for local office, you better have at least $1 Million in your war chest.

I think that Dakin’s efforts are noble, but futile. He acts just like a politician with the website and the “thanks for emailing us, someone will get back to you shortly” message. I don’t think he’s replacing anything. I would suspect that at one time, he probably worked for the United States Postal Service. He’s either being supported by lobby groups for the USPS, or by the Postal Unions themselves. I mean Dakin, you must understand that politics is moving forward with technology, what makes you think that stopping robocalls is going to stop the politicians from going to your house?

Wait until the personal video, where Joe Schmoe is running for County Legislator and he sends a personalized video mail to your television. Text messaging is on the rise in political campaigns. They are reaching you when you aren’t home? What’s the difference when they aren’t calling your house but they are texting you while you are at the grocery store, at the mall, in the car, the list goes on. Texting is a different technology than robocalls with some similarities. No laws written have expressed any kind of language that omits being texted. There is nothing mentioned about SMS technology. That’s because the leadership in our country probably can’t even text a message to anyone!

It has been my experience that the people complaining about robocalls are registered voters that don’t go to vote. They just belong to the party since they signed up when they were 18. I would highly expect that the majority of the people on Dakin’s registry are non voters that are enrolled in a party. They use the excuse to say they are registered to friends, but they really don’t have views, are politically motivated, or even care who represents them in Congress. They try to drum up these reports and studies that show young people are the most apathetic. Well it’s because the majority of “lifer” politicians ignore them. So why should they vote? Then when they do have the chance at age 30 something, those “lifer” politicians get voted out simply because they outlived their usefulness.

I blame the Baby-boomer generation for these robocall registries. A picture of Dakin on one of the corporate social linking sites shows him to look into his 40s. No wonder why he doesn’t like robocalls, his generation never experienced the Computer Age quite like my peers did. He wasn’t around during the MTV channel premiere because he was most likely either in the work force or in college. There was not a wide proliferation of television sets. People do not use media today like they did back then. They were too busy burning bras, their draft cards, and fighting to invoke a counter culture. Well here we go! They are all now retiring and becoming the fastest block of voters that don’t vote! They also contributed to the rise of a whole slew of political cronies throughout America that is only interested in serving themselves.

The Baby Boomers fear technology. They don’t understand that you can text an order to Starbucks in NYC and get the coffee when they arrive and already pay for it. I will admit that some of them are technologically savvy, but that is because their work or 3rd career forces them to learn these “darn fangled” devices.

Everything is a home invasion for these people, while my generation embraces it. Big Brother is watching you! Yeah okay, you bought right into the current administration’s hands. Meanwhile you are cutting the last few ties that bind you to the political process.

People complain that their representatives don’t do more for them. They complain that they never hear about their accomplishments in government on their behalf. People complain that they would like their opinions to count. Well the lazy baby boomers have come up with the Do Not Call Registry because they didn’t feel they had to leave their house. God forbid they would have to drive or walk to the local County Board of Elections office and erase their number on the list. No, people like Dakin have to make a huge spectacle out of everything! Even though the same technology could save a life during a hurricane, alert the neighborhood to a predator, find your pet, get a prerecorded message from Joe Schmoe telling you that he’s currently passing a bill that could cut your taxes and leave it on your voice mail.

No we don’t want to be bothered because we would rather complain. Well burn your bra, Dakin! When you die of old age, the rest of my generation will just repeal your selfish laws and registries because robocalls make sense. You might find the calls to be ridiculous, so just buy an unlisted number, build a moat, fall off the grid, and you and the rest of your followers can buy a nice tract of ranch land in Wyoming that Alan Thicke is selling and drink the poison Kool-Aid.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not here to single anyone out except Dakin and his non-voting followers. There are plenty of Baby Boomers that are doing the right thing. However that is slightly less than about 40 million people. In a country of over 300 million, that is about 1/7th of the total population and I am taking into consideration that those figures works in 1/3 of the total population divided by 50% of voters (1 out of 2) in that age bracket…give or take. You combine that with the results of the 2000 Elections and you have 100 million people once you combine the 1/4 of young and elderly voters.

I also don’t think all politicians are bad, just the ones in New York State. Only because they have lacked true initiative to do anything remotely advantageous for the people. They spend twice as much as the rate of inflation and then tax the people to death! No wonder more people are leaving this state! A correlation? Gee I wonder!

However I can attribute my parents’ generation and their actions to today’s society. I just think that they are put off by technology that they are scared of and want it to disappear because they lived in a Cold War society that thought hiding under a desk would protect them from an atomic blast. At the same time, many of them, about 50,000 according to Dakin, don’t care about anything except themselves. Dakin doesn’t even like when people call his house using Findtoto.com in order to have the neighborhood search for their pets. That’s the kind of person Dakin is and that is the kind of society he chooses to be involved in. I think it’s poisonous to America and everything it stands for.

In conclusion, I say that not voting, burning your draft card, and signing up for the Robocall Do Not Call registry is un-American. The only thing that Dakin is fostering is the movement towards complete and utter apathy! He’s the type of guy who would watch you get shot on his lawn, complain that you are bleeding on his grass, and go inside his house and not call the authorities. If 50,000 people want to join him, then at least we have a collection of phone numbers to start when it comes to texting the Hell out of them!