President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign saw its texts to potential supporters blocked by contractors for major mobile operators, in another episode prompting concerns over communication platforms’ influence over US elections.

A test run of the voter outreach program launched by the Trump campaign over the July 4 weekend was “abruptly shut down” on networks run by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, Politico reported on Monday, potentially costing the campaign millions of dollars in donations.

Interesting @politico article by @JohnHendel@politicoalex regarding curtailing text messaging by political campaigns. My reaction: @CTIA guidelines are worthwhile attempt to keep texting as spam-free as possible. All campaigns must be treated the same.

When the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner contacted Verizon and T-Mobile, they reportedly denied any partisan intent behind the move and pointed to contractors they employ to enforce the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association guidelines against spam. None of the companies would comment on the record.

CTIA did not say what the Trump campaign may have done wrong, saying only that it expects “all senders — whether airlines, schools, banks or campaigns — to include clear opt-out language and gain prior consent before sending a text.”

The Federal Communications Commission recently ruled, however, that peer-to-peer texting does not require consent, so long as texts are not sent out by auto-dial or robo-dial.

While both parties have used text messaging, Trump has invested heavily in digital outreach, harvesting emails and cell phones from supporters at rallies and online over the past three years and planning to send millions of texts ahead of the November election. Back in 2016, his campaign circumvented the traditional media – which overwhelmingly favored his Democrat opponent – to reach voters via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Since then, however, social media have found themselves under tremendous pressure from the political establishment to “deplatform” the president and his supporters, or tag their posts for “fact checks” and “hate speech.” 

News that the text campaign was shut down as “spam” has caused concern among some Republican digital strategists, who found it “troubling” that it was the only get-out-the-vote text effort given that treatment.

“I understand that telecom might want to change the rules about how political campaigns operate on their platforms,” consultant Tim Cameron told Politico. “But those changes should take place after the election, and once they’re in place when you’re in a period just a few months before the election, it’s not the time to change them.”

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