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.