It is time to end automated telephone calls

One of the least loved of the technological innovations in telephony is the ability to call thousands of people automatically and play the person answering a recorded message. They call them robo calls. They are an affront, annoyance, irritant and cheap. And being cheap is why they are heavily used by Canadian politicians. With a great deal of luck, they could even cost Prime Minister Stephen Harper his majority government.

When this automated ability was first developed, it was thought to be beneficial because telephone companies could offer subscribers the ability to call a group of telephone numbers to inform the subscribers of a church supper or a change in a little league schedule. It became a little silly when the son’s high school started using automated calls to inform the parents that Johnny had missed school that day. The reason it was silly was because parents rarely get to answer a call when teenagers are at home.

Certainly one of the most irritating of the more recent automated calls is the political survey. This is the one that asks you to tell the unnamed call centre how you will vote. It gives you a number for each candidate that you can press and hangs up when you press a choice. Since we always press a number at random, we have to reassure the local Liberal candidate occasionally that we have not switched party allegiance.

If everyone would just press a random number, we could soon end the foolishness. The most accurate answers on those surveys are probably those entered by four-year olds when they get to the phone first.

The recent revelation that the Conservative Party has been using these automated systems to discourage voters from going to the polls is a far more serious subject. These are not simple pranks by low-level party people. This is direct interference in peoples’ right to vote and is a criminal act.  While a lot of Conservative apparatchiks will have to fall on their swords for it, there is enough cause for there to be some by-elections in closely contested ridings.

If the Liberals and New Democrats could just agree to stay out of each others’ way, we could have a good chance to take away the Conservative majority in Ottawa. Now there is a cause, we can all agree on.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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