Cell phones spammed with anti-gay, anti-Obama messages

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UPDATE: The sender of the anti-Obama text messages, which were sent from an anonymous source and hit hundreds of voters’ phones Tuesday night, has been unmasked.

Politico reports in an updated story today:

The spate of unsolicited anti-Obama text messages that have hit hundreds of cellphones in recent days appears to be the work of conservative activist Jason Flanary and his Virginia-based communications firm, ccAdvertising.

Every domain listed in previous stories about the controversy now displays Flanary as the registrant and lists a Centreville, Va., address and phone number, as well as an indication that the domain had been “suspended for spam and abuse.” Domain registrar GoDaddy.com unmasks registrants when they violate terms of service.

GoDaddy suspended the domains and unmasked their origins overnight after POLITICO and others reported on the uproar on Facebook and Twitter surrounding the texts.

Politico reported earlier that one message read, “Voting for Obama means voting for same-sex marriage.” Others include “Obama stole $716 Billion in Medicare. We cant [sic] trust Obama to protect our seniors,” “Obama is using your tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions. Is that right?” and “VP Biden mocks a fallen Navy Seal during memorial. Our military deserves better.”

Many of the recipients tweeted screenshots of their messages. Jim Spellman, a reporter for CNN, tweeted, “A new low for these political campaigns: text messages? Please give us a break!”

Not much is known about the source of these messages except that they come from addresses like republicanett.com, votegopett.com, aiccomett.com and informedett.com, which suggest the texts may have been sent from the Internet, not from phones. Searches of the domain names show they were registered in February, but information on the owners is blocked.

Not only is it difficult to determine who is sending the texts, but the legality of the issue isn’t easy to discern either. The Federal Communications Commission prohibits text spams, but it seems whoever is behind this organized campaign is using the loophole of sending e-mails to phone numbers.

Last week, the FCC made the announcement that it would begin taking comments until November 23 on a petition that aims to ban Internet-to-phone messaging as a form of auto-dialing.

The person behind the petition, Scott Goodstein, a former Obama 2008 online external director and founder of Revolution Messaging, a digital campaign consultant firm, criticized the anti-Obama spam as “modern day push-polling.”

“These abuses threaten what is a very promising technology of text messaging for political engagement,” he told Politico. “People did not opt-in to receive these messages and ultimately end up having to pay the cost for this unwanted misinformation that appeared on their mobile phone.”

The messages also don’t seem to be well-targeted. Among the people who reported to have received them are hardcore Democrats, children and residents in non-battleground areas.

New York Times congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman’s 13-year-old daughter was one of the recipients. She received the message: “Obama denies protection to babies who survive abortions. Obama is just wrong.”

Weisman replied on Twitter, “Hey sms@gopmessage.com, not cool texting my daughter your little hit piece. I’d like you to stop it.”

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