prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Robocalls and the 1st Amendment

Posted by prof e on February 16, 2008

The State of Colorado just shelved legislation that would have restricted robocalls. SB-146, which would have banned most robocalls in Colorado, was killed in committee but may be resurrected next year. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a robocall first hand, they are the computer generated phone calls that typically are used to conduct surveys and polls, or to disseminate a political message (often attempting to sound like a poll). And robocalls, like email spam, are cheap. According to USA Today, “A robo-calling operation may consist of little more than a personal computer hooked to a DS3 telephone line, which can make 672 calls simultaneously and costs less than $100 per month.”

If you are registered with the “Do Not Call” list you are already protected from commercial phone solicitations, be they made by a person or a computer. But robocalls for non-commercial messages are different…currently there is no opt-out mechanism. In the last couple of years about 9,000 complaints about these automated calls were logged by the office of the Colorado State Attorney General.

Critics of robocalls complain about personal privacy and the intrusive nature of phone calls that interrupt meals and family time at home. But there is another side that should be considered. Political surveys, polls, and other non-commercial messages will be severely restricted if this legislation goes through. Should the First Amendment rights of political parties, local charities, and other not-for-profit entities be curtailed in the interest of personal convenience? While it’s true that telephones have historically been for personal, not public, communication, phones today are much more than that. For now we’ve got some time to reconsider the implications of this legislative action.


7 Responses to “Robocalls and the 1st Amendment”

  1. These calls are an epidemic and are invading the privacy of All American Voters.

    Our members are taking a stand and saying enough is enough at the National Political Do Not Contact Registry at

    Here is a quote from a member this morning:

    ” Please stop calling to get my vote. I vote for who I feel is the most qualified person.”


    Shaun Dakin
    CEO and Founder

  2. steve titus said

    currently going through the senate kind of interesting

  3. I have had many of these “robocalls”, more like “pain-in-my-@ss calls”!!! I believe these calls should be illegal.
    I believe this because, the phone is something we pay for to have phone calls from people we expect to call. I never paid my bill thinking, “Oh, I hope I get some total stranger or machine to call me this month during dinner.” In fact I know absolutely not one person that enjoys these calls.
    I would claim it to be an invasion of privacy. Also victims should be able to charge damages, for that show they missed to answer that call… or the dinner they had to interupt, thinking they were getting a relavent phone call to there life. I guess this is a little to much, but it does anger me.
    Why not just add everyone to the National do not call list…. and let everyone that wants the calls to come into there home sign up for the calls.

  4. Thomas Johnson said

    Of corse these calls should be illegal. The companies and politicians that use them don’t really care about you all they really care about are sales and votes. If they do care about your business or vote they should call us themselves the old way, the human to human way. It’s just insulting that they expect us to support them but they can’t even be bothered to call us without a computer.

  5. Kenneth Moses said

    Rob calls are ridiculous and unethical. I feel as if they do invade people’s privacy and that’s not far to us. I remember back when I was a teenager my parents and I always got at least three calls like this every month. I believe that if people want these calls they should be able to sign up for it. I think that we should be able to sue these people who are sending these horrible calls to us. The personal questions that they ask you are bad, I mean that is most definitely an invasion of privacy on their part. When doing research on this subject I found that these calls are hated by most politicians. Some voters are sick of interrupted dinners and evenings. They will punish the offending parties by opposing them in today’s elections. But critics say Republicans crafted the messages to quit voters — especially those who hang up quickly — into thinking that Democrats placed the calls.

  6. Molly Cotner said

    I personally believe that robocalls should be obsolete. They are very intrusive, especially when you are sitting down to dinner or any other time that you are able to relax at home and they call. I do not believe that they should be protected under the 1st amendment rights, especially when your personal phone at home is paid for by you. I could see them being protected if phones were paid publicly but the service for them is not. Also, if these calls are able to stay around then it is only ethical for them to have an opt-out part of the call. This should be made available so people are not receiving calls that they do not want.

  7. charles cruz said

    These “robocalls” should have either an opt-out or opt-in method so those willing can receive the services of being informed by them. Also these calls might be used to alert people of dangers if used by the fire department to alert people of danger. These can also be used to update people of special events happening in their communities. So I don’t think they should become illegal but they should be regulated and allow for an opt-in or opt-out method for those that don’t wish to receive the benefits of these systems. Which are very similar to CSU-Pueblo’s alert system for late starts or for on campus dangers.

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