So you’re going to get your second cup of coffee and you hear that familiar text message “ding.” You look at your cell phone, only to find a text from President Trump. The text mentions something about the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wait, a text from President Trump? On my cell phone? Can he do that? How’d he get my number?
Well, yes he can. The Warning, Alert and Response Network Act passed by Congress in 2006 allows Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) to be sent to every single cell phone in the U.S…in the case of a national emergency.
Per the FCC, a WEA may be sent for three reasons:
- Alerts issued by the president
- Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
- AMBER Alerts
And the process is more complicated than simply grabbing a cell phone, typing a message and pressing “send.” All WEAs must first go through a process via FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System. So there are some obstacles to overcome, unlike Twitter messages, which are widely used by the current and former presidents.
But are these checks and balances a good thing? Would you welcome a text from President Trump when he wants to share an important accomplishment of his Administration, for instance?
According to a USA Today article from last April, unsolicited texts – at least from presidential candidates – are not welcomed by some.
A Chicago man claimed in a lawsuit filed last year in federal court that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sent him unsolicited text messages. The suit alleged Trump texted “Make America Great Again” to cell phones without the consent of recipients, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Congress passed the law in 1991, and federal courts have since held that the act applies to unsolicited text messages, in addition to automated “robocalls.”
A more recent article by POLITICO (February 7, 2017) reports that Trump lawyers argued that the law violates the First Amendment protections of free speech. The suit was later dropped.
But, of course, that lawsuit involved Trump the candidate, not Trump the president. So far, no sitting president has used, or even attempted to use, texts to communicate to U.S. citizens. But, as so often happens as we get more and more used to the use of technology to communicate, the idea of receiving a presidential text could easily become a greater reality…accepted, even expected…over time. For now, the possibility is limited. But it’s definitely something to ponder.
Every day as PR professionals, our job is to formulate our clients’ key messages, identify their audiences AND determine the means by which to reach those audiences where they are. In our analysis, we also consider what could be considered too offensive, too intrusive….what will turn customers/potential customers off. As with the example of the president, just because we can text, should we.
Let us help you assess your communications needs….your message, your audiences and the vehicles to use to best disseminate your story. Visit www.rountreegroup.com or give us a call at 770-645-4545.
By: Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager