Texting Laws Could Change: Is Your Campaign Ready? - National Democratic Training Committee

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has halted conventional canvassing, countless campaigns across the country have turned to peer-to-peer (P2P) texting to help pick up the slack.

And why not? The existing texting laws around P2P texting allow for any campaign to send any cell phone user a text without them needing to sign up for a list.

However, P2P has always been a grey area. And many campaigners are concerned that regulations could change at any moment.

In this post, we’ll go over why you should be concerned about potential changes to the law, what the existing laws are, and how to prepare your campaign should there be a sudden change in laws and regulations.

Service Providers are Concerned About Texting Laws

Over Independence Day weekend, President Trump’s P2P texting operations were in full force, serving up a barrage of texts to donate to his ever-growing campaign.

Then, they stopped. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile reportedly stopped the campaign from delivering its P2P texts to some of its subscribers due to anti-spam monitors employed by the companies.

The campaign was allowed to resume texting after five long days, but the concerns flagged by the mobile platforms continue. Under some circumstances, P2P texting could violate the Telephone and Consumer Protection Act that applies to broadcast texting.

What are the Existing Laws?

Texting Laws

Broadcast texting —when a single click on a platform can send out a text message to millions of recipients — must comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires senders to receive the consent of their recipients.

P2P texting currently follows laws similar to canvassing or phone banking: as long as a person is at the wheel, they can reach out to anyone without that person opting-in to a list.

Existing P2P platforms require someone, usually campaign staff or a volunteer, to physically press a button to send each text to its recipient.

How to Protect Your Campaign Texting Program

We talk in our Texting for Campaigns course about how to set up both types of programs, but there are a few things you can do specifically to protect your program from being shut down should the texting laws (or the way they’re applied) change.

  1. Get opt-ins during cold texting. Even though you can P2P text anyone you want to recruit for virtual events, identify existing or potential supporters, or get out the vote (GOTV), it’s best to spend your time focusing on people who want to receive your texts. Collecting an opt-in on your first text ensures that you are reaching people who want to be reached, while protecting your program from any legal changes.
  2. Warm text whenever possible. A 2016 study by the Analyst Institute showed that warm texting — when you contact people your campaign has contacted before — can be more than three times more effective than cold texting. This follows our best practices, too. People are more likely to respond to your texting efforts when they’ve already been in touch with your campaign.
  3. Comply with unsubscribe requests. If someone tells you that they do not want to receive your P2P texts, stop sending them. Not only is it a bad use of time to text people who don’t want you, continuing to text when you’re not wanted feeds into the regulatory concern — that P2P can be spam.
  4. Funnel to broadcast texting. If you’re running a broadcast campaign in addition to your P2P efforts, you should get responsive recipients set up on both. Since they will need to opt-in to be part of your mass texting campaign, you will be able to point back to that opt-in in your records.

Don’t Be Scared of Texting Laws

Right now, this is hypothetical, so don’t be scared to make the best use of your texting program for your campaign!

P2P texting is still an effective method for turning out voters (and informing them how to vote by mail). Use it to win your campaign.

If you need to learn more about how to optimize your existing texting program, or need to start setting one up right now, our Texting for Campaigns course is here to ensure you’re ready to get in touch when you need to.

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