Corporate Interference in Democracy


Reverend Blair
#1
This showed up in my e-mail box this morning:
Quote:

Dear Chief Executive Officer,

Canadian election is just around the corner, you will soon have to reach millions of voters.

ITI Logiciel, a Canadian software company is offering AutoCaller 4.0, an automated dialing system that allows you to call thousands of citizens per day.

You can use it for: running surveys; fund raising; sending information about your candidates; getting voters opinions; party events announcement. The system can play messages in multiple languages.

For a limited time, with the purchase of a system, we offer all the listed phone numbers of residents across Canada, free of charge. Check the following pages for further details about AutoCaller 4.0. Do not hesitate to call us, we will be pleased to answer all your questions.

Best regards,

Gilles Gagnon
President
ITI Logiciel

AutoCaller V4.0
ITI Software proudly presents AutoCaller Version 4.0, a versatile automatic calling machine and predictive dialer. It can also receives calls and run as an ACD (Automatic Call Distributor), or an incoming interactive voice response system.

AutoCaller is a multi-line automatic calling system and Predictive Dialer. This is a great utility to make announcements, remind meetings and conferences, do telemarketing, run simple or complex surveys, etc...

The automated calling system calls a list of phone numbers, and plays a single message or a script of messages to the person who answers the call. It can also read touch-tones, record a voice message, transfer to an operator using
3-way call or direct transfer for instant communication with a connected agent.

System size ranges from 8 ports to up to 240 ports. A port is either an operator line, or an outgoing line. You can use the system as a predictive dialer with some ports for operators and some for outgoing lines, or all lines can be used to dial out, as a “super-dialer”.

Since operators are connected to regular ports in the system, they can work from home, which is a great advantage for small offices.

For pricing information, please call us at 514-597-1692.
Predictive dialer
Running AutoCaller in Predictive Dialer mode allows you to immediately transfer call answered to a live operator, as if the operator dialed himself. The information related to the called party, like the name and address can be displayed on the operator's phone (requires ADSI type phone like the Nortel's Vista 350), or on a computer using Internet Protocol. This means that the operator can work at the office, or from a remote location like home.

When a call is answered, it is transferred to an operator based on different mechanisms:

* the least busy
* based on an operator category, i.e. your best salesperson can get calls whenever he/she is free
* next available based on connected line number

At the end of a call, the operator enters a Touch-Tone indicating what is the call result and become ready to receive an new call.

All calls are logged in a statistic file, which can be used to generate reports.

If a call is not answered or if the line is busy, the system will retry later. They can also be rescheduled in a relative to now or fixed time later.

For example, you may reschedule busy calls in 10 minutes, no answer calls in 2 days, 10 hours.
Operators can also reschedule calls in days or months based on the conversation they had with the called party.

Recorded response can be listened to simply by clicking its name in the stats window.

Responses, voice or Touch-Tones, can be saved in variables, and the result of the calls can be emailed to up to 3 e-mail addresses right after the call is finished. This means you can receive your leads right away, even if you are not at the same location as the dialer.

Many lists of phone numbers can be maintained separately, multiple lists can run at the same time. There is no limit in the number of phone numbers found in a list. The numbers are called sequentially, using all the available lines in the system (fewer lines call also be used). A list can be configured to make calls only between certain hours.

The system can also be configured to receive calls and run the same script as if it called itself and a person answered. This is useful when leaving messages on answering machine, you can leave a number where the people can run your questionnaire afterward.

Phone numbers can be imported from comma separated text files, fixed size field text files, DBase, Paradox or any ODBC data source, like MS-Access

Notice the salutation. "Dear Chief Executive Officer". I guess they mean me.

The product is designed to make it easy for those who wish to use their corporate money to influence the outcome of our elections. The entire idea is entirely corrupt. Individual citizens do not have the resources to run campaigns such as the ones that users of this product can, and will, run.

When the candidates come to your door, and they will, ask them what their stance is on third party involvement in elections. We don't need the best democracy that be bought by big business.
 
Jay
#2
We all hate telemarketers.
 
Reverend Blair
#3
This isn;t about telemrketers though, Jay. This is about those with the resources being able to lobby the public directly or run push polls that favour the candidate of their choice. It is inherently corrupt and dishonest at its base.
 
Jay
#4
It isn't illegal.
 
Hard-Luck Henry
#5
Well it should be ...
 
Reverend Blair
#6
Did I say it was illegal? No. I said that it was inherently corrupt and dishonest. I said to ask your candidates what their stance was on it.
 
Jay
#7
I won't be raising the issue with anyone who comes to the door or whatever. I don't think this issue is going to go away, and I don't think there is an easy way around it. Sorry.

I don't even answer the phone anymore....
 
Reverend Blair
#8
There is a very smple way around it, Jay. Put very tight limits on donations to third parties and include them in the overall political donation category, and put very low spending limits on how much third parties can spend.

Require both the political parties that benefitted and the organisation(s) involved pay fines equal to to the amount spent. That would serve to punish both "independent" organisations and the political parties they are supporting. A couple of million dollar fines and the parties will be a lot more careful about undermining our democracy.
 
PoisonPete2
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by Jay

I don't think this issue is going to go away, ....

Answer - isn't this just the response of the stereotypical canadian? Kind of what is .. IS. Corruption in Politics? Gee, there's always been corruption in politics. Canada is ruled by a government with 34% of the vote? Changing to a truely representative political system is too hard.

I think there is a need for a grass-roots movement in Canada similar to the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America. Put the People back in Democracy. Likely this next election will be decided on with votes of less than 55% of the electorate.

I am going to work toward change. In the end we get the government we deserve and I feel we deserve better than the sesspool of corruption from the liberals or the heartless corporate agenda of the conservatives (I still recall their level of corruption).

I see the Rev's underlining theme here as the corroding ability for an active individual to make an impact on the political arena in Canada. The phone system mentioned is just one of many tools to advantage the wealthy and disenfranchize the poor.
 
Summer
#10
Looks to me like the advertisement is aimed at telemarketing firms themselves, using the idea that they may soon be hired to conduct pre-election polling and/or to deliver campaign messages as a means to interest them in purchasing this product in the hopes that once they have it in place, those contracts to do said political work will come rolling in.

Ages and ages ago, I once worked for a company that did various sorts of telemarketing. We sold extended warranties for appliances, we conducted consumer surveys, and at one point, we conducted political surveys during a campaign season. The product described in the e-mail you received appears to me to be a souped-up version of the sort of dialing software that the company I worked for utilized to manage calls.

If it's used to conduct surveys, I don't see an issue, but if parties or candidates were to use it to put out a message meant to influence votes, I'd feel somewhat differently. Obviously, both occur on this side of the all the time.

Though it's not terribly expensive to hire a telemarketing firm to conduct a certain amount of calling for you, even if they do have fancy ways of handling those calls.
 
Jay
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by Reverend Blair

The product is designed to make it easy for those who wish to use their corporate money to influence the outcome of our elections. The entire idea is entirely corrupt. Individual citizens do not have the resources to run campaigns such as the ones that users of this product can, and will, run.

When the candidates come to your door, and they will, ask them what their stance is on third party involvement in elections. We don't need the best democracy that be bought by big business.

I guess my lack of sympathy to this issue lies in the fact I don't believe this affects me. I suppose if it does affect me, it would only be because it somehow affects other people, therefore the outcome of the election. But I'm not convinced of it.
 
Hard-Luck Henry
#12
Pete is right - this may be legal, but it's another means by which power is monopolised by the mainstream political parties. Nobody would spend money on marketing, if it wasn't proven to have some sort of effect. Allowing campaigning by third party telemarketeers effectively means those with money to spend can buy influence and so, one would think, votes.

Another down side is that it leaves the door open for techniques such as "push-polling", as mentioned bt Rev. For those who aren't familiar, this is a telemarketing technique in which telephone calls are used to "canvass" vast numbers of potential voters, who are fed false and misleading 'information' about a candidate under the pretence of taking a poll to see how this 'information' affects voter preferences. The real intent is to 'push' the voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate.

I don't know about Canadian electoral law, but such techniques could possibly be used as a particularly sneaky means of getting around electoral regs,such as those we have in the UK, which limit the amount of money that can be incurred by organisations or individuals who are not standing at an election, but who wish to campaign for or against a party or group of candidates.

(One notorious example of "push-polling" I've heard about came in the 2000 primaries for the republican nominee for US president. With John McCain having taken a surprise lead over Geroge W Bush after defeating him in New Hampshire, voters in North Carolina reported taking calls from "pollsters" asking if they would be more or less likely to vote for senator McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child – a completely unfounded allegation (MacCain and his wife had fostered a Bangladeshi daughter), but mud sticks, eh?).
 
Reverend Blair
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by Summer

Looks to me like the advertisement is aimed at telemarketing firms themselves, using the idea that they may soon be hired to conduct pre-election polling and/or to deliver campaign messages as a means to interest them in purchasing this product in the hopes that once they have it in place, those contracts to do said political work will come rolling in.

They are marketing it to me for a specific reason though, Summer. "Dear CEO," remember. The ad goes on to say, "You can use it for: running surveys; fund raising; sending information about your candidates; getting voters opinions; party events announcement. The system can play messages in multiple languages."

Do they think I've started a political party? Doubtful. Do they think I'm a pollster? Also doubtful. Do they recognise that I'm politically active? Aha! That would be how I got on that mailing list.

[quote"PoisonPete"]I see the Rev's underlining theme here as the corroding ability for an active individual to make an impact on the political arena in Canada. The phone system mentioned is just one of many tools to advantage the wealthy and disenfranchize the poor.[/quote]

Exactly, Pete. This is just one more example. Why do we have Council of Chief Executives that has the ear of both the government and the press? Why is there no corresponding Council of Single Mothers Working Two Part Time Jobs to Make Ends Meet? There are a hell of a lot more of the later than the former in this country, yet corporations are able to buy political representation.

[quote"Jay"]I guess my lack of sympathy to this issue lies in the fact I don't believe this affects me. I suppose if it does affect me, it would only be because it somehow affects other people, therefore the outcome of the election. But I'm not convinced of it.[/quote]

That's just lazy thinking, Jay. Your democracy is being slowly eroded but you don't think that it affects you because, so far, the move towards living in an oligarchy hasn't hit you personally.

The mating call of the neo-conservative is, "I've got mine, f*ck you!"
 
Dexter Sinister
No Party Affiliation
#14
I've printed the Rev's first post and I'll be asking anybody who comes to my door during the campaign about this. Just because it isn't illegal doesn't mean it's not wrong. I think it stinks.

Short term fix: if the call display on my phone shows area codes 800, 866, 416, 214, and a few others from places I know I don't know anybody, I simply don't answer. Before I got call display, any call that started with a brief silence or a few clicks before somebody came on the line meant it's an automated dialing system that's rerouting the call to an operator after the connection's established. You've got a couple of seconds, just hang up before the operator gets there.
 
peapod
#15
Well I was just about to go knocking at your door dexter Where have you been, sitting in the garden, freezing your *** off eh??
 
Summer
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by Reverend Blair

They are marketing it to me for a specific reason though, Summer. "Dear CEO," remember. The ad goes on to say, "You can use it for: running surveys; fund raising; sending information about your candidates; getting voters opinions; party events announcement. The system can play messages in multiple languages."

My impression would be that somehow your name has ended up on a list of people who are CEO's of telemarketing firms (do political parties in Canada have CEO's? They don't here) and the focus of the advert is on the election because the advertiser thinks that will bring a rush of customers for his dialing product. To be sure, it's a rather narrow focus and they could have done better, though if you'll remember, in reading further down it does talk about sales, salesmen, etc., as though what they've done is taken an old piece of their promotional literature and hastily reworked it for the campaign season. Honestly though, having worked in both advertising and telemarketing in the past, that's how it reads to me.

Quote:

Do they think I've started a political party?

Do political parties have CEO's in Canada?

Quote:

Do they think I'm a pollster?

I think they think you are the CEO of a telemarketing firm or call center or polling center, or of a company that has a call center.

Quote:

Do they recognise that I'm politically active? Aha! That would be how I got on that mailing list.

If I had to bet money, I'd guess that yes, your name came from a mailing list somewhere, possibly politically-related but could just as easily be from any other source and subsequently purchased by the firm that sells this product, and someone's database accidentally plugged you into a list of people who run call centers which might use autodialers (that's what this type of product is called). This is not something that an individual, no matter HOW politically active, would buy as 1) s/he would have no use for it - it takes several, usually several dozen, people to run this item - and 2) they are EXPENSIVE.

Does this mean that I hold with pouring tons of corporate money into political campaigns, hiring call centers to push a candidate or an agenda, etc. No, though I suppose that at whatever level of money is allowed to be spent, parties/candidates will choose to spend it in this way at times.

What's your solution to evening the financial playing field in campaigns?

Personally, if the average individual had and took the time to independently inform himself/herself on issues and candidates, no amount of mass phoning would make much impact, except in rare instances or for taking polls.
 
Reverend Blair
#17
Quote:

If I had to bet money, I'd guess that yes, your name came from a mailing list somewhere, possibly politically-related but could just as easily be from any other source and subsequently purchased by the firm that sells this product

Looking back through my posts, I realise that I wasn't clear, Summer. The e-mail came to me through an address at a group I belong to that is inherently political, although ideally non-partisan. In your system it would likely qualify for 527 status if we bothered to get more organised. As an added bonus, I got the same e-mail this morning from an e-mail address at a similar group. That one isn't non-partisan at all, but would still likely qualify for 527 status in your system.

I've seen how 527s operate in the US and don't think we should allow anything like that in Canada.

While I'd love to see these two groups have the resources to use a system like this to counter the actions of other groups, we won't because we lack the corporate backing.

Even if this product is just directed at telemarketers or pollsters though, why wouldn't they just approach the companies in question directly? Both are quite limited in Canada, especially when it comes to those that deal with political polling.

My overall point was never this particular product though. My point was, and remains, that we have too much corporate influence in politics. Products like this exist because of that influence. So do political ads (most commonly attack ads that twist the truth).

If we put strict limits on third party involvement, it levels the playing field.
 
Dexter Sinister
No Party Affiliation
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by peapod

Well I was just about to go knocking at your door dexter Where have you been, sitting in the garden, freezing your *** off eh??

I'll always be happy to see you, Pea, unless you're shilling for the political right. Can't imagine that... I've been busy; real life has a way of intruding into my virtual reality. Major renovations are going on here at Chateau Sinister.
 
Karlin
#19
Rev, you hit another nail on the head here!!

[how did I miss this one so long, lol?]

Using CORPORATE money to affect an outcome in an election isn't right, especially when we see our government allready overly influenced by corporations.

Again, it me VS 'my brother the CEO' - why should he have more influence than I do? He does tho... by using corporate money to buy and operate these machines.

We do reward our "shakers and movers" plenty, they don't need or deserve to be able to choose the government!!
 

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