Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are Robocalls Being Used to Threaten People Who Criticize Trump?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are Robocalls Being Used to Threaten People Who Criticize Trump?

Article excerpt

Byline: Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

Is someone making threatening robocalls to people who make online criticisms of President Donald Trump?

At first, reported, fears of political harassment ranged over social media. The calls, however, wound up to be recordings made by a prank call producer.

Reports of the calls began circulating in November 2017, after some social media users shared their recordings of the message:

"Hi, this is Russell calling from the Trump for Office Foundation. How are you doing today?

"Great. Well, we're calling in regard to a problem we had with recent activity on your social media accounts. Do you have a second to talk about this matter?

"We've been monitoring some of your posts and it does seem that you've been making some rather negative comments about President Trump. Is that correct?

"Listen. We're going to have to ask you to lay off on the negative and derogatory posts about President Trump, OK? What's your problem, anyways? Don't you want to make America great again? Well, you've been warned. We'll be keeping an eye on you. Have a nice day."

This hardly seems legitimate, but it really wasn't a robocall as we have come to know robocalls. And the message did not originate with any political group, reports; instead, it was designed by a private company, Ownage Pranks, which allows users to request and send prank calls through its app.

A company spokesperson told by email how its process works: The user is on the call while the call is sent. They are, in fact, manually sending the call to the receiver and listening in real time. It is not an automated dialer.

Ownage's spokesperson also noted that its terms of service include not making any calls to strangers:

"You are strictly prohibited from using the App to call anyone you have not had a personal interaction with. Although the scripts are often cartoonish and often outlandish, some of the scripts may be scary or misleading to people who may not be expecting these calls or who cannot get a personal, friendly explanation about the nature of the call. …

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