Click-to-Call VoIP As a Political Tool

Advomatic got a great press hit today that we’re happy to share with you. VoIP News, a niche news and information publication dedicated to covering all aspects of the VoIP and Internet Telephony marketplaces wrote about our Click-to-Call system.

Robert Poe writes:

Advomatic application lets advocacy groups wage calling campaigns using an online interface.

…The recent battle over FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) bill provided a perfect example of how VoIP can be a political-advocacy tool.

Enter Advomatic

…To pressure legislators to vote against the bill, Blue America turned to Advomatic LLC, a Web-development firm that had previously built a VoIP application for the presidential campaign of Sen. Christopher Dodd. Advomatic subsequently “abstracted” the application and turned it into a more general political-advocacy tool, according to Aaron Welch, a partner at the company. The Blue America FISA campaign was a trial run for the generalized application.

The application is a click-to-call service hosted on Advomatic’s platform, drawing on data that is customized for each campaign. Individuals who want to use the service click a link to a page that prompts them to enter their phone number and ZIP code. The application uses geolocation data to determine whom each individual should call, using a database of target legislators, and typically matches callers with officials who represent their particular areas.

A campaign-specific on-screen help script tells callers what they can say when they are connected. The application then initiates a call to the individual’s phone number. When the person answers, a recorded message says that they will be connected shortly and reminds them to be polite. The application then connects the two parties via a commercial VoIP service to the target phone number.

After the call ends, callers can fill in a reporting form, which lets them note, for example, whether the target supports or opposes the measure in question (or whether the person is uncommitted). There’s also a field for comments. The reporting provides data that the group running the campaign can use to follow up or change its strategy as appropriate.

Making the various elements such as phone numbers, geographical information, on-screen guides and reporting forms work together would be either impossible or impossibly cumbersome using conventional telephone technology. The fact that the calls are going out at VoIP rates is an added bonus.

So far this is a pretty good, albeit slightly techy encomium to our software. And then Robert Poe gets into our politics – which is where I am happy to read:

Advomatic will make the tool available for other progressive campaigns, according to Welch. With some further development, he added, the application could also support an online phone-bank effort that would allow volunteers to contact voters on behalf of candidates or parties. Such use would be more complicated because it would have to draw on large databases of voters, rather than limited lists of legislators.

Advomatic plans to carefully control which organizations and people it provides the service to. For one thing, Welch observed, unscrupulous individuals could use it for “dirty tricks,” calling citizens and delivering objectionable messages while pretending to represent someone else. Also, the company doesn’t want to see the application used in support of conservative candidates and causes. Blue America’s campaign against FISA, of course, ended in failure when the bill passed. But for click-to-call VoIP as a political tool, it was just the beginning.

Using the internet to distribute political power and decentralize levers of decision-making from a tiny clique of elected representatives to millions of real Americans is revolutionizing our civic life.

It would make as much sense to use this populist webtool in order to advocate for undemocratic policies as it would to try to use a tidal wave to spread a brushfire.

That’s why Advomatic will never assist advocates for destruction.