What the Tech? How to Stop Political Robocalls

Your smartphone has probably been blowing up in the last couple of weeks from political campaigns for Donald Trump and for Joe Biden.

Even if you’re on the federal Do Not Call list, you’re likely still getting those calls and text messages. Here’s the kicker: politicians have made it legal.

“All of the political parties can bombard people with as many robocalls as they want, there are no repercussions, there’s no way to get around it,” says Aaron Foss, the inventor and developer of popular robocall blocking app Nomorobo.

“Every year around Election Day.. we noticed this pattern in 2016, the Monday before Election Day was the highest day on record for receiving robocalls.”

This year is no different and the calls are increasing every day. Nomorobo blocks, or tries to block every robocall using several different strategies.

First and foremost it notes numbers  reported by subscribers who’ve received robocalls, reviews them and flags known robocall
numbers. It currently shows over 3 million numbers in its Blocklist.

Another strategy used by Nomorobo is reviewing robocalls made to the numbers it owns. “We bought over 350,000 dead phone lines, these are phone lines people gave up, maybe because they were getting too many robocalls. They were basically the garbage of the phone industry,” explains Foss. “For our algorithm it was fantastic because no one should be calling those
numbers. And because they are our numbers, we’re able to answer them, record them, transcribe them. We can’t do that on the consumer side.”

Nomorobo has posted many of those recordings on its website, along with the phone numbers that were leaving the messages.
Foss said this election cycle has introduced another problematic type of robo contact. Text messages.

“On your mobile you’re not getting as many political calls, and we think the campaigns have just used this loophole to robo text or spam you, so we’re trying to solve that but it’s something we were not expecting and you know if you give these guys an inch they’ll take a mile.”

According to the FCC website, calls and texts from political parties are illegal without consent to the person getting text, if they are generated through autodialing. Like robocalls, these are difficult to police because multiple numbers are being used and the texts might appear to everyone that it was generated by one person sending the message via another phone.

Foss told me the campaigns sending the texts generally follow some guidelines and that the best way to stop text messages from getting through is to reply “Stop”.

Nomorobo also has a text blocking option. To enable it you’ll need the app, then go into your phone’s settings for messages. Scroll down until you see Unknown and Spam and select Nomorobo as the SMS filtering option.

Still, don’t expect any robo blocking app to block every call and text message. The only thing to stop some calls and texts from getting through is when the election is over.

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