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Are Unsolicited Political Text Messages Illegal?

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With an election always around the corner, many Americans choose to conveniently stay up-to-date about their favorite candidates and causes through text message marketing. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was initially passed to regulate telemarketing calls, and those regulations now extend to text message marketing. Per the TCPA, every consumer must opt in for text message marketing. However, if you’ve ever received a text message from a number that you don’t recall signing up for, you may have wondered: are unsolicited political text messages illegal? In this blog post, we break down the rules and regulations surrounding political text message marketing.

 

Are Political Text Messages in Violation of the TCPA?

Political messages are not exempt from the TCPA. When using a mass text message marketing platform such as Tatango, you absolutely need consent to send text messages to subscribers.

Texting in this way is referred to as application-to-person (A2P) messaging. Where confusion comes into play is over peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging, which we describe below.

 

Why Am I Getting These Texts?

In the first category of texts, application-to-person (A2P) messaging, a political candidate or organization sends a single text message to thousands or millions of subscribers at once. Politicians often use SMS marketing to raise donations, encourage voter turnout, or share important campaign updates.

As mentioned above, in order to receive these political text messages, a person has to provide their consent. To do so, they may check a box that gives the party or candidate permission to send such updates via text message. If the consumer challenges this, the candidate or party needs to show the consumer’s permission record. 

However, a second category of texts, called peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging, is generally more reflective of a conversation between two people. They’re not automated mass texts and are supposed to feel like an individual is behind the message—because one is!

The TCPA applies to text messages sent using an autodialer, which is a mass texting service like Tatango that can message thousands of people in one click. With P2P messaging, the sender may use an app or generator, but since a single person is sending the message, this type of message doesn’t currently fall under the TCPA guidelines. 

 

Is P2P Messaging Covered Under the TCPA?

Does the TCPA apply to P2P messaging or only to situations where an individual clicks a button and sends thousands of messages at once? This debate is happening now in the courts and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While mass text messaging regulations are clear about consent, P2P regulations remain unknown. 

Due to the ever-changing digital landscape, this debate over TCPA coverage will continue evolving over time as more arguments arise. Whether or not the TCPA steps in to regulate P2P messaging depends on the level of consumer feedback. It’s more likely the TCPA will extend coverage over P2P messaging if consumers provide negative feedback about this type of political messaging. As technology advances, the laws will need to be reconsidered. 

 

TCPA Compliance

Currently, there’s a strong legal argument positing that P2P is outside of the TCPA statutes. However, both A2P and P2P messaging play an important part in winning an election.

P2P messaging provides personal, grassroots one-to-one messages, while A2P messaging enables your campaign to reach millions of people in a single click—greatly increasing donations, votes, and support. With the 99 percent open rate for text messages, there’s no question that text messaging plays an increasingly vital role in political campaigns.

We hope this helps you understand why you’re receiving these political text messages and the laws behind them. Learn more about political text messaging on our website or contact a political text messaging expert today.

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