Gay-rights group calls for investigation of anti-Obama text messages

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a gay-rights group, has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate an onslaught of anti-Obama text messages. 


The group said the unsolicited messages, which reached an unknown number of people Tuesday night, were a "blatant" violation of anti-spamming rules, and urged the commission to impose the maximum fine on those responsible. 

The texts covered a variety of topics, including gay rights, abortion and Medicare, and reached people who had never asked to receive them, including HRC supporters.

"Obama supports homosexuality and its radical social agenda. Say No to Obama on Nov 6!" one read, according to HRC. 

"Stop Obama from forcing gay marriage on the states. Your vote is your voice," read another.

One claimed: "Obama denies protection to babies who survive abortions. Obama is just wrong."

The messages were sent from websites rather than phone numbers. According to records on GoDaddy.com, a Web registrar, the sites belonged to ccAdvertising, a GOP advertising firm based in Virginia.

ccAdvertising did not respond to requests to comment.

“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 issued late Wednesday. 

“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.”

FCC regulations and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 prohibit unsolicited auto-dialed text messages. The law allows for a $16,000 fine for each illegal message.

The rules for text-message spam are stricter than email spam because text messages are more invasive and can result in extra charges for consumers who do not have unlimited texting on their cell phone plans.

Revolution Messaging, a liberal campaign firm, filed a petition with the FCC earlier this year asking the commission to clarify that the rules apply to messages sent from websites to phones. The FCC began accepting public comment on the petition last week.

But HRC argued that even without that clarification, the texts still ran afoul of the law.

"Swift and forceful action against this text-messaging spammer is necessary to protect consumers from those who subvert communications systems in an attempt to launch a pre-election 'October surprise,'" HRC General Counsel Robert Falk wrote in a letter to P. Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. 

"The TCPA and other laws were created precisely to protect consumers from scammers who send fraudulent messages while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity."

The registration records for the websites that sent the messages were initially anonymous, but GoDaddy revealed the information after it suspended the accounts for spam and abuse. 

The records showed the websites had been registered to Jason Flanary, the chief operating officer of ccAdvertising and a former Republican candidate for the Virginia state Senate.

The registration has since been changed to "G. Joseph." The president of ccAdvertising is Gabriel Joseph.

It is unclear how many people received the unsolicited text messages, but many people in the Washington, D.C., metro area took to Twitter and other social media sites on Tuesday night to complain about the unusual campaign tactic.