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“Hello, this is just a test call,” a female robocall voice intones. “Time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home.”
The calls began back in June, according to YouMail, a service that offers robocall blocking for smartphones. But they have increased greatly as the election has approached, grabbing the attention of some election officials in recent days.
YouMail found evidence that the robocalls have reached 280 of the country’s 317 area codes since this summer, peaking at more than 600,000 calls in one day. Over all, the company has tracked 10 million similar calls in October.
Though the calls do not mention the election explicitly, their timing and lack of information were suspicious, said Alex Quilci, YouMail’s chief executive. Robocalls in favor of a political candidate typically include some “get out the vote” information or a call for donations, he said. These did not.
“It’s worthy of investigation to try to figure out what’s going on here,” Mr. Quilci said. “To do something at this scale is a bit of work.”
Mr. Quilci added: “What scares me is that this shows that someone” — a foreign or domestic bad actor — “could cause havoc with robocalls.”
The Washington Post earlier reported news of the robocall campaign.
Election experts focused on disinformation tend to focus on the spread of false information on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But misinformation can reach voters through a variety of mediums, including text messages and robocalling. Such methods can help misinformation stay under the radar, allowing it to spread widely before it is noticed.
On Tuesday morning, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned constituents that “multiple robocalls” had gone out to Flint, Mich., residents directing them to vote on Wednesday.
“Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote,” Ms. Nessel said in a tweet. “No long lines and today is the last day to vote.”
The New York state attorney general, Letitia James, announced on Tuesday that she was investigating the robocalls.
“Attempts to hinder voters from exercising their right to cast their ballots are disheartening, disturbing, and wrong,” Ms. James said in a statement. “What’s more is that it is illegal, and it will not be tolerated.”
Source: The NY Times
Keyword: Robocalls Grab the Attention of Election Officials