I never thought I’d say “fake news.” But it is interesting the way flames get fanned these days.
As I wrote a couple weeks back, the NCLC has submitted a comment to the FCC arguing that legitimate American businesses are behind the majority of robocalls plaguing this nation. I noted at the time that this narrative seemed inconsistent with the data and the experiences of ordinary Americans.
Nonetheless, NCLC has been discussing these matters with media outlets who are running stories adopting the position that legitimate American businesses account for the majority of robocalls. Indeed, in one recent article–published by the Washington Post and picked up by gizmodo over the weekend–NCLC’s preferred “robocall” aggregator YouMail was cited along with the following quote from the NCLC:
If the industry is permitted to send unlimited texts and make unlimited [robo-calls], without the ability of the consumer to say stop, who knows what horrible things will happen?
Seems a tad alarmist.
While the article correctly notes that the definition of robocalls is far from clear, it nonetheless notes that “robocalls” are at their highest ever and attributes the majority of those calls to legitimate American business:
About three-quarters of those calls were telemarketing calls, alerts from companies such as pharmacies with which consumers have a relationship and payment reminders from numbers associated with Capital One, Comcast, Wells Fargo and AT&T, the data shows.
How a call blocking app became the gatekeeper to defining and identifying robocalls is a story someone needs to run. We’re going to see if we can get the YouMail CEO on our podcast. More to come, I’m sure.
Yesterday we ran a brief piece explaining that the Washington Post had picked up YouMail’s robocall index data and cited to it as proof that American businesses are behind the majority of robocalls in this country. In that piece we questioned whether WaPo’s decision to rely on YouMail’s characterization of what constitutes a “robocall” might be “fake news” in light of the context shed by NCLC’s TCPA comment to the FCC (most notably, that 29% of those “robocalls” are account alerts that don’t seem to bother anybody.)
Although we did not question the accuracy of YouMail’s data–merely the conclusions being drawn from it by the NCLC and the media– in a new development, YouMail’s CEO sought to comment on that story, agreeing to appear on the Womble Bond Dickinson Ramble podcast, and vigorously defending its data:
We at YouMail are happy to come on your podcast and discuss our data. That said, it’s very unfair to imply our data “fake news” when no one from your firm has bothered to understand our methodology, dig into our estimates (where we put a ton of data online where anyone can see it), or to really understand how the data shows that not every American sees same behavior when it comes to robocalls. We’ve answered many billions of phone calls now, we’ve applied our voicemail/audio fingerprinting technology to identify the topic/source of calls, and we’ve leveraged significant consumer participation to help us make sure we’re classifying calls correctly. Is it perfect? Nope. But it’s good enough that we stand behind our conclusions, and would bet that our sample is really close to what’s actually happening out in the world – and are happy to back that up.
Again, we never said YouMail’s data was “fake news”– but we continue to wonder aloud whether its data is being misused by those seeking to pin the “robocall” problem in this country on legitimate American businesses sending, inter alia, account alerts to their consenting customers.
We look forward to booking Mr. Quilici as a guest on the Womble Bond Dickinson Ramble–should happen in early or mid-August assuming calendars align– to clarify these issues and in an honest effort to learn more about YouMail’s methodology, its estimates, and any available data it has compiled respecting the experience of Americans with robocalls. I can think of no better use for TCPAland.com than to provide a platform for fully exploring such issues in the hope of defining the terms of this important debate–what is a “robocall” anyway? (Someone’s got to do this, might as well be us.)
Most importantly, however, we will seek to understand how YouMail’s data aligns with the definitions contained within the TCPA, and the commentary made by the NCLC in its comment to the FCC in reliance on YouMail’s data. As always, we continue to extend an open invite to the NCLC to join us to discuss these issues as well.
More to come. Stay tuned.
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