Indian Politicos Dilute Vision with Spam
By John Alderman, Tue May 04 07:15:00 GMT 2004

The intersection of mobile technology and politics is a hot topic. But instead of voters and activists empowering themselves or their message, Indian politicians are manipulating the technology into a tool of annoyance.

India, in the midst of five rounds of national elections that will finish May 10th, has seen the mobile phone, along with other high-tech trappings like the electronic voting booth, become central to campaigning. But has a top-down communications approach from over-eager political parties annoyed more than enlightened?

Voters have complained of waves of spam being spread by parties that convinced operators to send messages to their entire customer base. Other mistakes were made: pictures that the Congress party campaign mailed out on behalf of its candidates were accompanied by pornography. (It's hard to say which one receivers would rather get.)

Things don't look like they'll be letting up, either. The head of one software company bragged it had software capable of sending up to 10 million SMS an hour.

In addition to unsolicited SMS and email, voters have received recorded messages from politicians in their voicemail, in landlines and mobiles. Indian bloggers have noted the problem, one saying "I dread to think of what comes up ahead," as each side spams their take on how the country is doing.

Certainly a bit of quickly deleted spam is preferable to the kind of blaring drive-by bullhorns that seem, for instance, to plague all of Tokyo come election time. And a Iíll take a little scientific boom and high-tech progress over religious fighting any day. But one has to wonder about using spam to win an election, especially when you're supposed to be emphasizing your vision. Encouraging electronic connection is great. Annoying voters with the medium you're celebrating sounds dicey.